There are a number of resources available to help you get your career started, even while you are still at college, and the college career fair is one of the most valuable ones. Whether you are looking for a job when you graduate or you are trying to build some professional experience now, the college career fair can help you meet your goals.
A college career fair is a bit like speed dating for your career – you only have a short window in which to make an impression. With the right preparation, you could land the job that launches your career. Without it, you could end up another face in the crowd. Here are a few tips on how you can get the most out of college career fairs:
Research the Companies
When you sign up for a college career fair, you should be given a list of companies that will attend. Take the time to do your research for each of these companies before you attend the fair. Find out what you can do about their business, what their goals are for the coming year, what their new products or services are, what struggles they are facing, what changes they have recently undergone, and any other relevant information.
This research will help you to determine if you are the right match for that company, and it will help you to prepare your resume and your interview answers so that you can then get that job.
Though you won’t be subjected to formal interviews at a college career fair, you will participate in informational interviews, which can tip-toe into traditional interview territory with some of the questions you may be asked. Make sure you’re prepared to answer whatever questions may come your way by practicing your interviewing ahead of time.
Perfect your “elevator pitch” about yourself, distilling the most important information about yourself and your experience into a few sentences, and then come up with a few stellar answers to some of the most difficult interview questions you might face. Practice with a friend or career counselor who can give you honest feedback and tips for improvement.
It’s surprising how many students show up to the college career fair without enough copies of their resume and without business cards. Don’t make this mistake. Make at least two dozen copies of your resume (more if there are more companies expected at the fair) and bring twice the number of business cards. Your goal should be to leave a resume (or two) with every person you sit down with and to drop a business card in the hand of every person you meet.
Talk to as Many People as Possible
Don’t limit your efforts to only those companies who you think you may want to work with. You may find that in talking with a recruiter, you learn about positions within the company that you may not have known about but that match your interests. At the very least, you may find that you have made a valuable new networking contact.
Prioritize your efforts so that you talk with the companies you are most interested in first, but fill the rest of your time by talking with as many recruiters as possible. Also make it a point to mingle during breaks and to hand out your business card to as many people as you can.
Don’t wait for recruiters to call you after the career fair is over. Start by sending a brief thank you note letting them know that you enjoyed talking with them and expressing your interest in learning about more opportunities at their company. Follow up with a phone call, e-mail or letter in the next few weeks to discuss job opportunities and to supply more information or work samples.
Build relationships with the contacts you made. Networking is vital to your career search! Take advantage of the contacts you made at the fair and maintain regular contact. You never know which one of them might lead to your next job.
College career fairs are a great way to find the job that will get your career started. Use these tips to make sure that you aren’t just another face in the crowd and that you make the most out of the contacts that you make.
Alexis Bonari writes for one of the largest open databases of college funding opportunities. Specific topics like education grants are described in detail to provide multiple resources for students.