It’s high season for the internship and summer job search, and the Philadelphia Career Connection on Friday, 1/27/17, the STEM Recruiting Day on Friday, 2/3/17, and the Not-For-Profit Career Day on 2/24/17 will be great ways to learn about and perhaps have preliminary interviews for jobs, internships, and volunteer opportunities with over 50 organizations.
While career fairs are a fantastic way to connect with job and internship opportunities, I’ve talked with many students who really stress out about career fairs. When I talk to students who are hesitant to attend career fairs because they worry they’ll get nervous and won’t know what to say or do, I always remind them that recruiters register for career fairs because they are eager to talk to and potentially hire talented students like YOU.
Here are a few career fair prep tips to help ease some of that pre-fair anxiety:
Before the Career Fair
- Reflect on your career interests, skills, and personal goals for the fair. Are you looking for an internship or a full-time job? What type of what of work do you want to do (i.e. writing, teaching, analyzing, project management, event planning, counseling, researching…)? What industries are you most interested in? Where do you want to live? That said, while it’s important to have goals in mind, it’s also important to keep an open mind so you don’t miss out on an opportunity simply because you overlooked the fact that it could be a worthwhile way for you to gain experience.
- Prepare your resume. Check out the CCPA’s resume guide.
- Develop your “30-second commercial”. If that sounds silly to you, just think of it as your basic introduction. Career fairs can get crowded so you might only have a few seconds to attract and keep a recruiter’s attention. This can be a little daunting, so work out a great sentence or two about your career interests, skills, special research projects, and background (your intended major, extra-curricular activities, internships, etc.)
- Research organizations that are attending and develop a plan of attack. Come up with a list of your “must see” employers to make sure you don’t miss their tables, but survey the entire list of attendees. Go to their websites and look at their profile on LinkedIn to learn about what they do and the types of opportunities they offer.
- An organization doesn’t have to be a household name to be a great employer who offers interesting and rewarding opportunities. I know a student who received a super job offer with a great company after she stopped by a table that had no student traffic when she walked by. She would never have known about what that company had to offer if she didn’t stop to ask.
- Taking the time to reflect on your interests and goals, develop your introduction, and research organizations will help you make the most of your time at the fair.
And here’s a quick run through for the day of the fair
- Dress sharp and brush your teeth
- Bring lots of copies of your resume
- Carry as little as possible (no coats or backpacks, etc.)
- Turn off cell phones in the employer areas.
- Approach employer representatives with confidence and a welcoming SMILE (and thank them for coming to campus)
- Introduce yourself, make good eye contact, and offer a firm handshake.
- Give the recruiter your resume and tell him/her about yourself and your career interests.
- Ask intelligent questions about opportunities, the organization, application process, etc.
- Take business cards (and make notes on those cards for easy recall), and follow up with recruiters that night.
- Speak with as many employers as possible; you never know what you’ll find.
- Visit your top choices first. Avoid standing in a long line to speak with one recruiter when you could talk with 3 or 4 others in the same time period.
- If you have questions please approach of one the staff members at the check-in desk.
After the Career Fair
- Send a thank you letter or email message. Thank employers for their time at the career day and restate your interest to those employers in which you are particularly interested.
- Include a copy of your resume. Since most candidates will not follow up with employers after the career day, this will make you stand out.
- Follow up on any of their particular directions.
- Surprise yourself by having fun talking with employers about exciting summer and post-grad opportunities!