As college students, we’re lucky. Like real lucky. We have people that are actually trying to help us get jobs. There are people that are only here to find us jobs. Out in the real world, that’s not a thing. Yeah, your school might help ya out as an alum, but it’s nothing like being in college with these resources. I get so frustrated when people don’t utilize this amazing opportunity. One of the best resources your college career center provides is career fairs. They seem super scary and intimidating, but in reality, they’re amazing.
Go as many times as you can
I visited my first career fair my first semester of freshman year. I honestly think I was the only freshman there. Seriously. I was wearing ridiculous polka-dotted slacks and a button-down blouse. I thought I was making a fashion statement but in reality I just looked ridiculous. Whatever. My point is that you should go to as many career fairs as you can. I don’t care if you have no intention of getting a job at them, just go. Career fairs are all about practice. It’s scary walking into a huge gymnasium (or wherever your school holds yours) to see hundreds of tables, manned by professional-looking adults, all waiting to hear your elevator pitch. It’s not easy. But if you think of your first time as a practice round, the pressure decreases. Take some time, walk around, maybe talk to one or two employers. If you don’t expect anything, it’ll be so much easier. By the time you’re actually wanting to score an internship or job, you’ll be so much more relaxed and prepared.
Do your research. Don’t just walk into the gym and walk around aimlessly until you see someone you want to talk to. Most schools will you provide you with a list of all of the companies that will be in attendance, and if you’re lucky, they’ll also provide a map of where each of them will be set up. Research the companies & figure out who you want to talk to or find out more about. Then, if possible, find out where each of these companies are set up. That way you can make a game plan of where you want to visit without walking around like a lost puppy.
Bring yo’ stuff
Bring resumes. I’d suggest about 10, but if you plan on visiting more companies, bring more. Definitely bring more than you think you’ll need. If you have business cards, bring those too. It looks impressive and gives employers another place to find your name. Keep both of these in a professional portfolio. Don’t be that girl (or guy) carrying around a One Direction folder.
Dress the part
I mentioned above that I looked like a a total idiot at my first career fair. But that’s okay. It was a learning experience. Most career fairs require “business professional” wear. This means a suit set with conservative shoes. No “hooker heels,” no sneakers, no opened-toed shoes. No matter how creative you want to look, don’t. Let your personality shine in your conversations, not in your wardrobe.
Make yourself known
Employers are going to get hundreds of resumes at any given career fair. They might browse through them, they might throw them in a pile of even more resumes. We don’t know. But if you make an impression on the employer, they’ll set your resume aside, or at least remember your name when they see it. Make a connection with the employer. Whether it is your hometown, an appropriate joke, or something you find you have in common, don’t just tell them your elevator pitch and walk away. Make them remember you.
Following up can mean many things. If you had a connection with someone, add them on LinkedIn. If you got someone’s email, email them thanking them for their time. They didn’t have to take time out of their day to hang out in a college gym. If they told you to apply online, do it. Show them they didn’t waste their time, and hey, you might get a job out of it.
Most professionals suggest having 1-3 internships before you graduate. But having any type of job before you graduate looks better than nothing. Take advantage of career fairs and all of the other resources provided by your school (resume critiquing, mock interviews, etc.) so you’ll be as prepared as possible to take on the real world.
Have you utilized your school’s career fairs? How’d it go for you?