How to Really Rock the Job Fair
If you're a student or early career professional, you've seen posters advertising the campus career fair, and you may have even attended one! But have you really made the most out of the career fair?
Here are some great tips and insights from recruiters, career services pros and recent college grads to help you make the career fair worth your time. Did I overlook a great tip? Share it in the comments!
Preparation is Key
Karen Fox is Head of University and Recruiting Partnerships at Vanguard. She and I met at a university job fair when I was a staff member and she was representing Vanguard, looking for talented students approaching graduation. “I think preparation is key to a successful job fair experience. Students should know in advance what employers they want to target, prioritize them, research and know their "pitch." That is, what role they want, how they are going to get ready and how they can be of most value to a company. This trumps anyone asking the cliché questions like "what does your company do?" or "what jobs do you have?" (Check Karen's profile out on LinkedIn.)
Nichole Renee Mitchell is a College Planning & Access Specialist who works with high school students. She says the two most important things that a student can do to prepare for a career fair is to register prior to arriving and peruse the list of companies ahead of time. "Many venues now use scanners in lieu of filling out contact cards and if the student has not registered, they will waste precious time in the registration line at the venue. Perusing the list of companies will allow them to strategize which to visit first, and possibly get to the front of the line for popular employers. It’s all about saving as much time as you can to maximize your visit!" (Find Nichole on LinkedIn.)
Talk to Everyone
Lisa Sandonato, a consultant with expertise in learning development who is also a Solutions Designer at Santander, shared this advice. “Talk to everyone, and don’t pigeonhole yourself. Your major may work in several different industries. Have a think about what you like to do and what you're actually good at, and find out where you can apply that. Don’t go into anything with the “what can the company do for you” mindset, but rather, where your skills, your ethic, your experience would be a great fit. Be enthusiastic and above all, genuine.” (Find Lisa on Linkedin if you'd like to connect with her.)
Taylor Schoch is a recent graduate who found a career in food safety and quality assurance right after she graduated in 2012. Her advice echoes Lisa's: “Don't close the door to a place or company you might not know. Talk to everyone. It could be another undergraduate that leads you to your next career. Have multiple copies of your resume to hand out like a business card.” (Taylor is on LinkedIn as well.)
Know what you're looking for - and ask questions
Erika Forsack is a social media strategist at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her advice focuses on self-awareness: “Know what it is you’re looking for in an internship/job. I think too many students are willing to do anything just to get one, that they put their wants and needs on the back burner.” (Follow Erika on Twitter @erikaforsack.)
Patrick Cavins, a postdoctoral researcher, suggests jobseekers use the opportunity to ask questions about the company, its culture and how it supports employees. "No question is too big or small. Worried about transportation in a big city? Ask. Have real questions or concerns about benefits? Ask." While career fair representatives aren’t hiring managers, they can often share insight into the company culture or employee benefits, which can be enormously valuable. (Patrick hangs out with me on Twitter @PatrickCavins.)
Show genuine interest
Valinda Lee is Associate Director, Career Planning and Resources at Scripps College. She reminds students to let their facial expression show that they are genuinely interested in a company. In her words: “Remind your face that you're excited to be there.” (Find Valinda on Twitter @LiveWorkLove.)
You've probably noticed I included Twitter handles or LinkedIn addresses for each of the contributors. They are part of my personal learning network; they give me ideas, encouragement, and professional advice. I asked them to contribute their wisdom and they responded generously. (Thanks, y'all!)
Now it's your turn to add them to your network if you'd like to learn as much from them as I do. If you follow them on Twitter, be generous with retweets and replies. If you connect on LinkedIn, be sure to personalize your request and mention this blog post, so they'll know to accept your invitation. Connect with them, learn from them, and build your network!