So much goes into a college career fair. For many of us, there is so much to think about that it gets a little overwhelming. Combined with the anxiety that comes from the thought of spending a whole day trying to impress a future employer, and you may be tempted to skip it. Don’t!
Instead, take some been-there-done-that advice from the fine people at the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), who were kind enough to answer this question:
What are your top tips for college students about to attend an on-campus career fair?
Here are their thoughtful answers…
1. Talk to Everyone
Have an open mind. Imagine you’re competing with lots of people for limited positions (because you are). You can’t afford to be picky about where you apply. Even if the person you’re talking to at a job fair can’t help you get your dream job, you should still present your best self. You never know where an opportunity will lead.
2. Know Your Audience
Most students are going to show up half prepared, hoping something great happens. But if you find out who will be there and do some research on them, you can confidently chat them up. If you demonstrate that you did your homework, they will likely be impressed and always remember you as the one who stood out.
3. Set Expectations
What do you hope to get out of this? What connections do you want to make? If you go into situations with clear expectations that are not only realistic but also clear and specific, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment. A goal of getting a high-paying job is very different than making five solid connections.
4. Bring a Lot of Resumes
You’ll be meeting a lot of recruiters at the on-campus job fair so bring a lot of resumes with you. You can stand out from the competition by providing a link on your resume to your digital portfolio. Whether you’re in the arts or in finance, a digital portfolio will show your potential employers your skill level and help land you that interview.
5. Ask for Business Cards and Follow Up
To stand out from your peers, ask recruiters for their business cards after chatting with them. You will be surprised how many people fail to do this. Once you have their business cards, follow up with each of them in an email thanking them for talking to you and expressing why you would love to interview at their company. Make the emails short and to the point, but thoughtful and personal.
6. Network and Make an Impression
As someone interested in hiring students and college graduates, I think it’s important for students to network as much as possible. If you’re at a job fair, don’t just take a pamphlet or a business card and leave; use that opportunity to make an impression. You may find yourself interviewing with those people down the road.
7. Be Authentic and Honest
You’re still in college. Every person in your class is exactly as qualified as you. The value of your degree is decreasing, so it’s extremely important to be authentic and build personal relationships. Take an internship (even those with low or no pay), make friends and prove your value to a potential employer. The experience and relationships are your objectives.
9. Show That You Are Hungry to Work and Learn
Employers are looking for students hungry to work and learn. From an employer perspective, we are hiring you because of your attitude, not because of your current skill set. We know it is less expensive to hire and train someone with a great attitude than it is to hire someone with experience. Show that you are eager to grow. You will get hired!
9. Ask to Cover Job Fairs for the Student Paper
Ask if you can take a photo or two and write 200 words about every on-campus job fair that comes to your college. Then, while attending, make a point of asking questions for the paper. You’ll wind up with more material than you can use, but you’ll also have the perfect excuse to follow up with a recruiter — a clipping from your student paper!
10. Focus on Quality Over Quantity
Focus on wowing a few key recruiters instead of speaking to as many recruiters as possible. This will require you to do some research beforehand. You’ll need to find out which companies you should speak to, as well as pertinent info regarding each company. Doing this will help set you apart from your peers and improve your job prospects.
11. Don’t Look for a Job
As ridiculous as that sounds, take advantage of the on-campus job fair to build relationships. Some call it networking; I call it making friends and obtaining customers. Make your impression count by not jumping from person to person collecting business cards. Rather, make real connections with those you do have an opportunity to meet and speak with.
12. Make the Rounds
Students should make sure that they visit every company at the fair and learn more about the opportunities available. Many students head directly to the largest booths and the largest employers, turning a blind eye to the enormous opportunities that are around them. Smaller groups often have the best opportunities in terms of new tech. Also, they allow you to take chances other organizations won’t.
13. Create Your Short Pitch
Before you attend an on-campus job fair, create a short 30-second pitch that sums up your education, goal(s), skills and talents. Include any volunteer work, leadership positions and sports. Additionally, you should include why you’re interested in a role at that specific company.
These answers are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. YEC has also launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.