When it comes to career fairs, students have two basic questions to answer:
- Do I even want to go to a career fair?
- How do I make it work for me?
We estimate that an average of 5-10% of college students attend career fairs on their campuses. Now, this is our own estimation based on discussions with students attending the 95 campuses, where Greek Ladders has a presence. On some campuses, the number is less than 5%!
We'll be the first to admit that career fairs are not the only answer to securing great jobs. However, when 50-100 business, non-profit, education, and government employers come on campus...at one time...the opportunity is golden.
So, while you're mulling over questions like "why would I bother going?"..."what would I do?"..."how do I get ready?"..."how do I make it work for me?" - we've provided some answers.
Do I go to the career fair?
YES! - Here's why...
The vast majority of students either think that they'll be presented with job opportunities at or around graduation, they'll take care of employment on their own, or they'll have a job waiting for them later. Others are either apprehensive or intimidated by career fairs. Even if you do have a job waiting for you, attending career fairs will open extraordinary doors for you.
We recommend attending career fairs for the following reasons:
- Make connections - Each employer representative can provide you with exceptional resources...whether they're ideas, connections, referrals, or job opportunities. The worst thing that can come from talking to the recruiters is a good conversation. Making connections allows you to build your professional network.
- Build relationships - Following the initial introduction, or connection, they people you meet know amazing people, who can open doors for you. Also, the reps you meet may eventually become clients, customers, colleagues, close friends, and supervisors. Maintaining communication with them will definitely work in your favor.
- Learn about employers - Many students simply "window shop" when attending career fairs. For example, if they're marketing majors, they'll simply walk past employers in the engineering and manufacturing industries. They fail to recognize that those companies have marketing needs and may be looking for the next superstar. We coach students to visit each recruiter, engage in conversation, and learn about their hiring needs.
- Get screened for jobs - When the recruiters inform you of great job opportunities, the conversation will immediately turn into a screening session. The discussion will either continue at the table or may evolve into a follow-up meeting. When attending the career fair, be prepared to participate in meaningful discussions with employers - they could easily be interpreted as initial interviews.
- Name-Drop - When you're in an interview with an employer, which exhibited at a career fair on your campus, it's quite likely that they ask if you attended the fair and if you visited with the employer's representatives. If your answers are "no" it's no big deal. However, if you did visit the employer's table and talk to its reps, this gives you the opportunity to brag about the conversation, mention the recruiters names, and connect the conversation at the fair to the one you're having in the interview.
How do I get ready for the career fair?
There are many ways you can prepare for career fairs. First, it starts with your mindset - make sure that you really want to go and have a vision and pre-determined objectives. If you're unclear, then call us and/or visit your career center. Next, consider these simple recommendations.
- Find out who's going - Get a list of exhibitors at the upcoming career fairs. Visit your campus's career center website or walk in an ask for a list. Once you have the list, highlight the employers you wish to target. Then, conduct research on each to either a) prioritize your visits, b) collect valuable insight (hiring practices, corporate culture, key players, finances, contact information, and job/internship openings), and c) project how many resumes you may need to bring.
- Bring your resume - If you don't have a resume, now is a great time to start piecing one together. It can be intimidating, at first, so don't be afraid to ask for a little assistance. Campus career centers serve as great resources. Be sure to include brief descriptions of our campus and chapter involvement. In addition, invite others to proof your resume. In fact, send us your resume...an outsider's perspective will provide for constructive feedback. When at the fair, carry your resume in a nice, clean folder. You don't need to buy anything fancy...a simple folder will suffice.
- Dress appropriately - Recruiters at most career fairs will be dressed in business or business-casual attire. You'll want to dress similarly. Contact us or your career center for more details on this. Also, leave your backpack behind. First impressions set the tone for each visit to employers at the career fair. It starts with your attire, then moves to your body language, and culminates with the greeting. When you look, feel, and act sharp, you'll impress the recruiters.
- Be ready to talk - If you simply window shop, like other students, you won't find value in the career fair. However, when you engage in conversations, you'll gain a lifetime of possibilities. Remember that there's gold in every person you meet. And, don't forget that there's gold in you. Career fairs give you the opportunity to reveal that gold.
- Be yourself - This tip could also be coined as "Have fun." Career fairs allow you to shop yourself...your experience, skills, interests, etc. Employers pay good money to meet students. When you visit and engage with them, you WILL stand out. If you pursue a position, your consideration WILL levitate to the top of the pool. Being on your A-game, sharing your shelf, and having fun will result in strong possibilities.
Career fairs are exceptional opportunities to meet a large group potential employers at one time without leaving campus. Set yourself apart from other candidates and set the tone for an amazing career!