Most college students will attend at least one career fair in their years at school; some will attend many more. As a college senior, I’ve been to a few and have found them intimidating and stressful, but overall, a worthwhile experience.
You may think you should only go to a career fair if you’re actively seeking employment or if you’re very interested in the companies attending – this is simply not true. Whether or not you’re looking for a position and whether or not you’re interested in the companies, career fairs provide the following essentials:
This is essential for any career stage, whether you’re actively seeking or not. Meet people, get your name and resume out there, and learn about companies. If you’re actively seeking, you now have a resume in the hands of a company representative; if you’re not, you have background info on the company and a contact to reach out to when you do start looking.
Going to a career fair is like having 10-20 mini-interviews; you have just a few minutes to sell yourself and your resume. If you’re casually seeking or not seeking at all, you can simply gain the experience – it will help prepare you for future career fairs and real interviews (for more advice on interviewing, see here).
Often, recruiters that you speak to at career fairs will give you feedback either about your resume or where you might fit in at their company. They might tell you that you need more experience, or suggest some classes that may make you more desirable for the company. They may tell you that you’re not a fit for the position they have right now, but to monitor the company’s website for a certain other position that is a better fit for you. Just like experience, feedback is always helpful!
Whether you’ve yet to attend one or you’re a career fair pro, here are some tips to help calm your nerves and stand out in the sea of candidates:
1. Research the Companies
This goes for any interaction you have with a company – a pitch, an interview, a career fair. Know what the company does and its background! For suggestions on how to research a company, see here.
2. Customize Your Resume
Use your research to customize your resume to feature your skills that are most relevant to the company with whom you’re speaking.
3. Prepare Your Personal Pitch
At career fairs, you only have a few minutes to make an impression. Prepare your “elevator speech” and pitch yourself to the recruiter. Don’t talk too long, but give them a brief background, your experience, and why you think you’d be right for the position.
4. Get Contact Information
If possible, get the recruiter’s contact information so you can follow up about the position or, if you’re not actively looking, contact them in the future. Remember – networking is key!
What tips do you have for a career fair? Share them here!
About the Author: Kate D’Amico is in her senior year at Virginia Tech where she is studying communications with an emphasis in public relations as well as psychology and special events management and marketing. She has prior internship experience in corporate communications and public relations for technology, nonprofit, and association clients.