With midterm season well underway, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that fall semester will be over before you know it.
With the arrival of spring semester comes the deadline for internship and job applications, so you’re beyond thrilled that there’s a career fair coming up to help you figure out where you might be working next summer or after graduation.
Meeting prospective employers and networking to get the job of your dreams is a key step in your college life. So how do you make sure that you do it right?
You’re dressed to impress and you’ve brought along copies of your resume and samples of your work. You arrive at the career fair and…
What to do:
The first thing that you need to find out is which companies will be attending the career fair. Research which potential employers will be there so that you know who you’re going to be dealing with.
Colette Rodger, the manager of internships at Pennsylvania State University’s College of Communications, said, “For the career fairs that we hold, we send out e-mails with a list of all companies attending. Students can also stop in our office, where there will be a list of all companies attending. The days of the events, we always offer a booklet for all attendees. It will include all of the companies, all the recruiters in attendance, their contact information, and jobs or internships that they are searching for.”
Bob Martin, the assistant dean for internships and career placement at the Penn State College of Communications, said that the preparation process should expand further than that.
“Know your audience,” Martin said, “but also know yourself and how your skills, knowledge and experience match up with what employers are looking for with the particular positions they have available.”
After you’ve explored the companies that will be present and the positions that each company has available, select the companies that you want to see and make a list of your top priorities.
Rodger suggested learning a bit about the companies that you select before attending the career fair.
“Be sure to do your homework on the companies you want to meet with,” said Rodger. “What if you went up to FOX and they asked you, out of the blue, ‘What is your favorite FOX show?’ Ugh, that could be scary if you were put on the spot and you didn’t do your homework!”
Once you know a bit about your top choices, prepare a miniature presentation about yourself and your skill set to share with the potential employers you’ll meet at the fair.
“Get your one-minute elevator pitch down,” said Martin. “You should be prepared to present yourself in a professional, positive manner and show them why you are an exceptional candidate.”
These people see thousands of students a day, so work on figuring out what makes you stand out from the crowd. “Try to provide them with three things that you believe uniquely qualify you,” Martin said.
“Be sure those points are part of your discussion. In other words, you must create value!”
What to bring:
Of course you know that you need to bring along copies of your resume. Rodger said, “Take more resumes with you than you expect. If you want to speak with 10 recruiters, take 15 resumes with you.”
“Be prepared with materials to present,” Rodger continued. “They usually want to see your work. If you are searching for newspapers, you would like to write, and you have previous experience in the business, bring your samples by photocopying your original clips and stapling them together. If you are a broadcasting student looking for anchor positions, bring a DVD or your laptop to show them your work. If you do not have samples of your work to give out, have a link to your e-portfolio on your resume.”
It’s also a good idea to bring along a (professional-looking and appropriate) bag with you at the fair. Something in a neutral tone, without studs or sparkles all over it, would be fine.
This way you have something to carry your own materials in so that you have a free hand to shake theirs with, and you have somewhere to put all of the pamphlets, informational sheets and business cards you collect from all of the companies throughout the duration of the day.
Where to go:
You’re dressed to impress and you’ve brought along copies of your resume and samples of your work. You arrive at the career fair and … it’s an overwhelming mass of stands for hundreds of different companies.
Don’t hyperventilate! Here’s how you handle it.
“If you get to the event when it opens, move in a counter-clockwise direction if the crowd flow is going in a clock-wise direction,” Martin advised. “This way, you’ll get to see recruiters before others, and you won’t have to wait in long lines.”
“Make sure you pursue them in a fashion that won’t waste your time,” Martin emphasized. “In other words, don’t zig-zag across an entire room and wait in long lines.”
Read more job fair tips here.
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