5 Ways to Make the Most of Your College’s Career Fair
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Most universities and colleges offer a plethora of career-related resources for students to utilize while getting their degree. With things like career counseling and help securing an internship, schools want to help you succeed—so take them up on it! After you graduate, it becomes much harder to gain access to the types of resources your school has to offer; it’s way easier, for example, to meet recruiters at your school’s career fair than to cold-call or email them out of the blue. So take advantage while you can! Here are five ways to make the most of your college’s career fair.
1. Be Prepared
Talking to potential employers can be daunting, so you might feel most comfortable by making sure you’re prepared. The first step, then, is to look at the list of companies that will be present and do research to find out which ones you are actually interested in. You won’t be able to talk to everyone, so try to narrow down your list by prioritizing your interests. Be sure to take notes as well so that you know something about each company you plan on talking to—the recruiter will be impressed to know that you took the time to research them, making them more likely to remember you.
The most universal career advice: bring printed copies of your résumé! This may seem old school in our digital age, but it really does go a long way in creating a lasting impression of yourself in the recruiter’s mind. If you want to go the extra mile for a company you’re really interested in, you can even bring a printed copy of your cover letter.
2. Be Memorable
There’s nothing worse than talking to someone who looks like they would rather be anywhere else. With this in mind, try not only to be yourself, but also to be the most positive and engaging version of yourself. The more comfortable you are, the easier it is to be yourself and give recruiters a feel for your personality.
It may help to get an idea of who the recruiters are so that you can be less nervous and better prepared to have meaningful conversations. Your best bet to accomplish this might be to look up a company of interest on LinkedIn—you can usually discern who the recruiters are by looking at who the company employs. Seeing the recruiters’ faces before you meet them will help make you more comfortable and thus able to have a natural, memorable conversation. Making personal connections is one of the best ways to set you apart from the other students they talk to that day.
3. Dress to Impress
Dressing up shows that you’re serious about these interactions and are ready to be in a professional environment. Most on-campus career centers offer guides to choosing an appropriate outfit, and some even recommend stores to shop from. Try not to wear anything too flashy; you want your personality to be the center of attention, not your outfit. In the same vein, leave your oversized tote bags and bulky backpacks at home, as these events can get crowded, and you don’t want to be the person bumping into everyone! Also, make sure you have your hands free so that you can shake hands with the people you meet. Most importantly, wear an outfit you feel good in. It’s sure to boost your self-confidence, which will show in how you present yourself. Don’t forget to power pose before you leave home!
4. First Impression Management
Treat these interactions like speed interviews. Even though you’re mostly there to get information on companies and make contacts, you’re giving companies their first impression of you, so act accordingly! These interactions are a great opportunity to try out your “elevator pitch,” a short speech in which you introduce yourself and explain why you would be an asset to the company. You also want to be mindful when speaking of your past experiences: always emphasize positive things you learned to create a positive association with you in the recruiters’ mind. A positive first impression is the best shot at forming a beneficial relationship.
5. Follow Up
Make sure you get the contact information of the people you talk to so that you can send them a polite thank-you email, which simultaneously reminds them of who you are. A follow-up email leaves a lasting impression that will keep you fresh in recruiters’ minds. Thank-you notes also offer an opportunity for you to reiterate your interest in the company and remind the recruiter of why you’re the best candidate for the position.
The combination of a crowded room and the sound of people all talking over each other can deter students from stepping foot in a career fair, but equipped with these tips, you’re sure to be more confident. While it may seem intimidating, remember that you’re just as qualified and as competent as other students, and the best thing you can do is to be yourself. Take a deep breath and put your game face on—you got this! Ready to take networking to the next level? Here’s an easy College Networking 101 guide to help you cultivate relationships with professors and industry professionals.