Finding a job is no easy task.
It’s quite honestly a roller coaster of emotions, a push and pull of “Are you a good fit for us?” and “Am I a good fit for you?”
Luckily, career fairs are held to help alleviate some of the job hunting woes by providing the opportunity to get out there and make an impression. Yet, these events can be the culprits of some of the most anxious and nerve wracking emotions we feel. On a day in which you are supposed to be focused on finding the best job fit for you or making a good impression with a recruiter from your favorite company, the last thing you want to feel is unprepared.
Here are a few key tips for feeling your best on the day of a career fair.
1. Be narrow but open
More often than not, there is a list of companies that will be in attendance. This list is usually curated by and can be accessed through either the university’s career center or student affairs office. Try to get a copy and narrow down the companies you are interested in, but do not close your mind off completely to the other recruiters. You never know where you might click best, and it is better to be open to opportunity rather than closed off from it.
2. Elevator pitch
You do not have to write a script, but be sure to have an elevator pitch ready. You will want to cover the basics in what you are studying, your experience, and what you are looking to achieve in a career. Also have a short anecdote on hand, something you can share about your passion that is unique to you. This will not only help you feel a little bit more comfortable in your conversation, but it will also help the recruiter get a good grasp on who you are.
3. Check out workshops beforehand
Some schools will offer career fair preparation workshops or one-on-one appointments that are awesome ways to feel confident walking into a career fair. If you need some last minute resume critiquing or have any questions you need answered, check with these departments at your school.
4. Be prepared and enthusiastic
You will be surprised at how well the conversation will flow if you have done a little bit of research beforehand. That said, still ask questions. Be curious and excited to learn more about the company or the work a company is doing. Everyone, especially company recruiters, like to know that you are interested in what they have to offer.
5. Dress confident, feel confident
You are going to be a little nervous, and that is okay. But what you are wearing is the last thing you want to have anxious thoughts about. Generally, the advice is to be overdressed rather than underdressed. Think: business professional attire. If you have any specific questions, contact the career center — someone there will be able to give you more specific guidelines for your school’s particular dress code.
6. Be polite of others’ time
Career fairs are controlled chaos. There are company representatives and students crammed in a space and time frame that can often result in long lines and waiting time. Once you finally have your chance to speak with a recruiter, do not time yourself, but be sure to be conscious of both the recruiters’ time and the time of those who are in line behind you.
7. Network with everyone
Obviously you want to network with the company representatives and recruiters, but making conversation with other students and job seekers is a nice way to find hidden opportunity and advice. You never know who you might meet or what you might learn.
8. Ask for a business card
You are going to be talking to a decent number of people, and you do not want to have to worry about getting every single name and title right later on. Ask the recruiter if he or she has a business card and tuck it away in your portfolio. On top of coming in handy later, this will also reflect your interest in pursuing something further with the company.
9. Be gracious
Saying thank you seems like common sense, but you would be surprised what a little anxiety and adrenaline can do to you. Just do your best to remember to thank the recruiter or company representative before you leave a booth. You can then use the business card you snagged earlier to send a follow-up thank you note about 24-48 hours later. Being polite goes a long way.
10. Take notes
Jot down some notes on a notepad in your portfolio or type them in the notes application on your cellphone. These notes do not have to be a transcript or play-by-play of the conversation, just key points and highlights you can reflect on later. This will be useful when trying to write a personalized thank you note.
Attending career fairs should feel exciting and should build your confidence up, not bring it down. Go in with your head held high, be ready to show off all of your great experience, and be open to the amazing opportunities and people you will face.