Written by: John Lemp
Do I have to go to the Career Fair? YES
Career fairs and employer information sessions are easy ways to network professionally and land that first interview. What’s nice about career fairs is that employers come to you – they literally send several of their employee representatives to your campus to discuss internship and full-time positions for which they are currently recruiting. But, that doesn’t mean there is nothing for you to do there. Employers expect you to come to them as well — it allows them to gauge your interest in their firm and available job opportunities.
Let’s get to business.
Here are some tips on how to successfully network at an on-campus career fair:
Do Your Homework: In all likelihood, your college or university career services office will provide a detailed roster of all the employers that will be visiting at the upcoming career fair. Examine that list of employers carefully and make note of a handful of employers that you definitely want to talk to (dream job type of employers) as well as a list of employers that you know of and would like to learn more. Do some background research on the positions they are recruiting for and browse their corporate websites. This step of preparation will allow you to enter the career fair confidently and be well equipped to begin your networking.
Arrive Early: Unless you have academic or extracurricular obligations during the career fair or at least a portion of it, you should show up to the career fair before it begins. Arriving early for events allows you to feel comfortable in the setting and provides you the opportunity to be a part of a group speaking with others, before the event begins. Employers are more likely to notice an individual who is networking with fellow students, than one who is checking his smartphone.
Do Not Be On Your Phone: Legendary American political activist and presidential candidate Ralph Nader was quoted in a recent Fortune article as saying “Total addiction to screens” is a phenomenon that our generation is all too caught up in. You should not be on Facebook, surfing the web, tweeting, texting, or snapchatting a pic of you in that new suit and tie during the career fair. There will be plenty of time for all of that after you’ve networked like a legend.
SEE ALSO: Writing a Resume in College
Give Out Your Resume: Be sure to bring several copies of your resume that you can give to employee representatives. Only give your resume to people with whom you have had a conversation. DO NOT simply walk up to someone and say, “Here’s my resume, bye.” It is important that you make a personal connection with the representative of the employer. At the end of the conversation, thank the person and kindly give them a copy of your resume.
SEE ALSO: Suit Up Like You Own The Place
Keep Up Appearances: You should be dressed in business formal attire for a career fair–dress shirt, suit, tie, and dress shoes. Keep copies of your resume in a resume folder and have a pen and a small notepad with you should you want to take down important information that will likely arise during your conversations. Introduce yourself and close the conversation with a strong, firm handshake. Maintain eye contact throughout the duration of your conversation.
Ask Questions: It is important that you make the most of your time at the career fair. The following is a list of questions that you can apply in any conversation, so feel free to take these with you: What is the typical career path in your line of work for this organization? How did you decide to enter this field? What is the work environment like at __________? If you were back in college, would you do anything differently in terms of coursework or summer experiences? How has the field changed since you entered it?
After the Career Fair: Networking is a continuous process, so prepare to keep in touch with established contacts and continually reach out to new ones. Compose thank you letters and emails soon after your time at the career fair and send them to the people with whom you held conversations. Be sure to mention specific points covered during the discussion.
The following are some “Can’t Miss” tips for successfully navigating an on-campus career fair:
- Dress for success — wear business professional attire.
- Arrive early — Show up before the career fair officially begins. Your energy and enthusiasm will be noticed.
- Firm handshake and strong eye contact — this conveys your interest and confidence.
- Collect business cards, take notes — networking is an ongoing process.
- Follow-Up — send “Thank you” emails to those with whom you had conversations.
Keep networking like legends and good luck fellow collegians!
What has your career fair experience been like? Do you have any tips we missed? We would love to hear about it in the comments below!