ATTENDING CAREER FAIRS
If you are a current student looking for a job, attending career fairs is a great place to network. Even if you have already graduated from your college or university, your career services center may still be able to assist you. Many times, colleges and universities will open up their career fairs to alum. Contact your school’s career services office to find out what their policies are for helping their alum. Different schools and universities have a variety of rules and regulations for attending career fairs.
If you do decide to look for a jobs by attending career fairs, start out first by doing some research on line to find out if you can obtain the names of the companies that will be attending. Along with that, you may also be able to find out which majors they are hiring for, etc. Once you find that information out, make a list of those companies you would like to approach at the career fair.
Upon entering the career fair, you may also be able to obtain a map of the layout of booths or tables. This way, before entering, you can map out your plan of which tables to visit making your career fair experience more productive.
REPRESENTING YOURSELF PROFESSIONALLY
When you visit a career fair, remember employers are looking and watching. They will see the way you carry yourself, how you interact, and most importantly, how you represent yourself professionally. It all makes a big difference whether you know it or not. Therefore, remember the tips below:
1. Dress professionally
Yes, even though you are not going to an actual interview at this stage, you should still dress professionally. I can’t tell you how many career fairs I have attended through the years where students come through in jeans, shorts, sandals, and t-shirts. I have even seen where people take their children! No! You still want to give a good first impression and the best way to do that is to present yourself as a professional. Dress nicely and never take your children. It is a huge distraction if talking with an employer and your children are crying or trying to get your attention. If you can’t get someone to watch your children during the career fair, it’s best to skip it and perhaps go the next one.
When I was a career adviser, I ran into some students who told me they weren’t at the career fair to look for a job. They are there to just obtain information so they would attend in jeans, shorts, t-shirts. No! Even if you are not looking for a position when you attend a career fair, you are still going to be in the presence of employers. Therefore, always make it a point to look professional. Remember that people are always watching you – what you say and do are important.
I have spoken to several employers who complain about the way students dress at career fairs. Trust me, people are paying attention. Therefore, leave your stilettos, over-sized pants and party attire in the closet.
2. Take several copies of your resume
Because you may be speaking with several employers, take several copies of your resume. When getting them printed, make sure to use a good quality resume paper. This can be purchased at your local office supply store. Another alternative is to visit the printing area of your office supply store and have them print copies for you on good quality paper. Having them printed may be a more cost effective alternative for you. Having the good quality paper shows employers you put the effort and time into preparation, making a good impression.
Carrying your resume flat in a padfolio will be best. This way, your resume will not folded or crumpled giving an unprofessional look.
3. Practice your elevator pitch
When approaching each employer’s table, have your elevator pitch ready. Make sure you can clearly convey what it is you are looking for and your qualifications. Convey what you can do for the company, not what you want the company to do for you. Your elevator pitch should be about 30 seconds.
For more information about your elevator pitch, watch this helpful video:
4. Your Approach
Over the years, many students have asked me how to approach employers at a career fair. The best approach is to approach. In other words, you can’t stand back and expect the employers to come to you. You need to approach them. When you do, have a pleasant smile, introduce yourself with a firm handshake and go into your elevator pitch.
Students have told me it seems weird to approach a complete stranger and just start talking. However, if you are there to seek a job, it is expected you will approach them. Therefore, it won’t seem weird in this type of environment to do just that. If this is totally out of your comfort zone, you have to practice it and really decide to work out of your comfort zone and approach them. The best way to do that is with confidence. Once you give the employer your elevator pitch, the conversation should take off from there.
Be prepared for the employer to ask you a few questions. Remember, this may be an introduction of who you are, but it’s to decide if they want to invite you to an interview at their company. That’s why it is important to give a great first impression.
When you meet employers at the career fair, ask for their business card and if you may connect with them on LinkedIn. Therefore, before going to the fair, make sure your LinkedIn profile is made and looks professional. It should consist of the same information as your resume and you should have a professional picture included with it.
DID YOU KNOW?
Did you know that experts say that 29% of hiring managers look at LinkedIn accounts, while 38% look at other social media accounts? Therefore, it is important to make sure your social media sites are professional and don’t contain derogatory information.
For more information about social media, please visit my article Establish Social Media Presence That Is Positive.
OTHER PROFESSIONAL TOOLS
Do you really want to stand out? Obtain some business cards for yourself. Yes, business cards! There are several ways to obtain them inexpensively. Do a little research to find out the best avenues to obtain them.
Some information to include on them are your name, address, contact phone, major, GPA, and expected graduation date. If you want to include more and can do so inexpensively, include information on the back that includes your skills or credentials. Handing an employer your business card will certainly make you stand out from the rest of the candidates.
Attending a career fair is a good way to network and obtain a position. If you want to impress employers, there are certain things you should do to come across as being professional. On the contrary, there are things you can do to come across as unprofessional as well. Therefore, you need to brush up on those things that will make you look professional so you stand out.
Remember: You never get a second chance to give a first impression!
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