Spring college career fair season is in full swing! Many schools have held this semester's career event already, with several more scheduled over the coming weeks. With that in mind, I'd like to provide some helpful tips for students from the perspective of someone who works many of these events:
- Be prepared! Know something about the company that you are approaching. Do advanced research the night before the fair, or simply read the banners/handouts available prior to speaking to the representative. The worst way to start off the interaction is, "So, what's this all about?"
- Have your resume updated and available! Realize that, when you speak to a company representative at the fair, it helps to provide some background information. For example, "My name is Jim and I am currently a junior in the Business Administration program with a focus in accounting. What positions might your company have for someone with that background?" It can never hurt to leave behind a resume and potentially generate some name recognition for when you eventually apply. Pro tip: make and hand out your business card.
- Dress to Impress! This always enhances your first impression, and helps you stand out against those who do not dress for the event. It shows you are serious about getting something out of your attendance and hints at what type of employee you will be.
- Arrive First! In my experience, career fairs are typically sparsely attended for the first hour; everyone tends to arrive together halfway through. If you arrive early you can maximize your time with each company representative. The focus will be on you, helping you stand out. And, you will have more time to think during your discussions, allowing you to ask better questions and learn more.
- Speak Up! One of the most important things you can do to make a good impression is to hold a conversation with a company representative without necessitating that they stand an inch away from you. These events are usually held in gymnasiums, student centers, and the like. They get extremely loud! Make sure you are ready to speak at a high enough volume to be heard; and carefully enunciate your words. After all, you're there to make a great impression, right?
As with any advice, it's important to consider how you can make these recommendations your own. Do what makes you comfortable, play to your strengths, and have meaningful conversations with decision makers at your school's next career event. Keep in mind that the ultimate goal is setting yourself up to be a strong candidate for an internship or full time position within the next couple of months.