It’s career fair season! Colleges around the country are bringing in both local and national companies to try and help their students get a job. If you’ve never been to a career fair before, they have the tendency to be a bit overwhelming. There are a ton of people in suits, companies you’ve never heard of, and just the overall stench of soon-to-be-graduated seniors desperate for a job. Not necessarily the most fun place in the world.
Despite all the chaos, career fairs can be a huge resource for college students, no matter what year you’re in. Yeah, even if you’re a freshman. Let me explain.
Say you’re a freshman, young and full of life. Your resume probably isn’t very impressive yet (don’t worry, you have plenty of time over the next 4 years to amp it up), but you have loads of ambition. You walk up to a company, tell them who you are, and let them know you have a strong interest in maintaining contact for an internship along the line. You exchange information with the company representative, hand them your resume, and walk away. When it comes time to apply for internships, shoot that company rep an email and say “Yo, I talked to you when I was a young lass. Can you slip a good word about me to the head honcho?” just a bit more eloquently. It’s likely that the company representative will remember that conversation, or at least appreciate your drive and tell the hiring manager to keep your resume at the top of the list.
On the other hand, you may be a senior graduating in December (me), and you’re itching for a career. You have a strong resume in your hand, and you’re ready to go impress some company representatives. This could be your path into the world of adulting, so you definitely want to make sure you’re prepped and ready to go!
But what steps do you need to take in order to make a good impression at a career fair? What details do you need to remember? As someone who has a few career fairs under her belt, I’m here to help you out!
Do your research
This step applies to two things: the career fair itself + the companies you’re interested in.
Your school should provide you with some sort of company roster and the majors they’re interested in talking to. You may have an idea of where you want to work, but you may end up hitting it off with a company you never even heard of before. Which brings me to the next thing you need to do…
Research all the companies you want to talk to. Know their mission statement, who their competitors are, their location, etc. Basically know enough information that if some random person approached you with a test about the company, you would be able to ace it. I don’t know what type of realistic situation that would happen in, but you get the point!
Prepare your resume and business cards
Your resume is basically your whole professional life on a piece of 8.5×11 paper. It’s pretty dang important. Make sure you feature sections like education, previous internships and jobs, skills, and any relevant leadership positions you’ve held. If you want more information on resumes, head to these two posts: resume basics, resume details.
Likewise, your business cards are a snippet of you. They should be aesthetically pleasing, memorable, and have all your contact information!
Ensure that you have at one resume & business card per company you talk to!
Practice your elevator speech
An elevator speech is basically a 30 second pitch about who you are and why you would be an asset to their company. Here are some tips to make sure you have a great one:
Don’t be too braggy: Yeah, you want to let them know that you’re awesome, but this speech shouldn’t just be a list of your accomplishments. Let them know your passions and skills, and how they may translate to the company itself.
Focus on positivity: This is not the time to talk about your weaknesses! That just puts a damper on the whole conversation!
Be passionate: Stemming off the positivity note, make sure your voice shows that you are uber passionate about your future career
Once you’ve crafted your perfect speech, spend some time practicing it in front of the mirror.
Dress to impress
This should go without saying, but I’ve seen my fair share of career fair attendees in jeans and a t-shirt. Companies want to see that you care, and part of caring is looking your best.
Depending on your major, you may have a bit more freedom in what you wear. Business and engineering, though? Suit up! Just make sure your blazer and pants (or skirt) fits you well. Dudes, people can tell if your suit doesn’t fit, so putting up $20 for a bit of tailoring can work wonders for you!
If you’re going into a more creative field, you have a bit more freedom in what you wear. You still shouldn’t show a scandalous amount of skin, but you can definitely be more business casual!
Pro tip: Wear comfortable shoes. Most career fairs are in a huge space, so you don’t want to be walking around in 5 inch stilettos. Go for something sensible yet cute!
Visit the “unlikely” booths
There a lot of companies out there that don’t seem like a good fit at face value, but they might end up being the perfect place for you to start your career.
Take Amazon for example. At face value, you’d think it would just be a whole lot of tech, right? But a whole lot more goes into Amazon than technology. They need public relations specialists, accountants, marketers, logistics specialists, and more. Just because they’re not a PR firm doesn’t mean a PR major shouldn’t pay them a visit!
Follow up by email
If you ended up talking to a company that really intrigues you, send the company representative a follow up email when you get home. Mention that you talked at the fair and that you would be really interested in *insert job or internship here*. That email alone could make your resume go from the bottom to the top of the list! Companies LOVE that stuff!
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Does anyone have any other advice for career fair attendees? Do you have any experiences you want to share? Let me know in the comments!
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