Haven’t actually been to a college career fair yet? Don’t worry – you’re not alone. Career fairs can feel like terrible places swarming with students who are just as competitive and qualified as you are. Even if you have stopped by one before, the unwelcoming and stressful environment may have had you running for the hills with sweaty palms and feet. Here are some tips for newcomers and veterans alike on how you can dominate, yes dominate, your next career fair.
1.) Dress up
Yes, dress up. Do you feel silly walking around campus in a business suit? Maybe, but you’ll feel even more ridiculous walking into a career fair wearing your usual sweat pants and flip flops. A safe bet for career fairs is to go business casual; still comfortable but tidy and presentable. If you think you look good, you will be more confident when you will have to meet dozens of strangers and do your elevator speech. Speaking of elevator speeches…
2.) Prepare an Elevator Speech – Selling Yourself
Make it. Practice it. Time yourself doing it in the mirror, even record yourself to make sure you’re not flailing your arms too wildly and that you’re smiling enough. Make sure in this short 30 second speech, you get across who you are, why you’re interested in the position, and what skills you have that make you suitable for it.
3.) Research the Companies Before Going
Prior to career fairs, the career center will usually email or post a list of companies that will be there. This list can be very lengthy and after looking a few of them you may get lazy and stop researching the companies. Don’t get lazy. Make sure you at least look up all the companies on the list, even if you don’t go into more in depth research for all of them. Employers dislike having students come up to them without having any background information on their company. It is okay for you to ask for the recruiter’s personal experience with the company; it is not okay to blindly ask who they are and what they do.
4.) Have Resumes in Hand
I think as a college student, it is good practice to always have a few updated, general resumes tucked neatly away in your backpack. For a career fair, having updated resumes on hand are a must. You will only have 30 seconds to talk with the recruiter in person, so it is your resume which he or she will glance over later that will really remind them of you. Make sure details in your elevator speech line up with information in your resume.
5.) Ask for Business Card/Follow Up
When you’re finished speaking with the recruiter, thank them by name (that’s right, try to remember the recruiter’s name, no matter how nervous you are!) and ask them for their business card. Do not hesitate to email the recruiter after the career fair, reminding them who you were and thanking them for their time. This is what really separates students who will get the job from those who don’t. Students who take the initiative to contact the recruiter (I know it’s scary) show that they are really serious about the position. Even if nothing comes of it, it is courtesy to send follow up emails.
With these five tips, you’ll walk into your next career fair and blow away the recruiters with your confidence and professionalism. Don’t forget that at the end of the day, it is also just a career fair that has minimal contact with employers. If you feel you didn’t do well with one recruiter, you can do better with the next recruiter a table down. If that career fair was a flop, there will definitely be more throughout the school year. Just remember that it is preparation and practice that will lead you totally dominate your next career fair.