Getting the most out of a career fair
5 THINGS TO TAKE TO THE CAREER FAIR
- Information about the organizations attending and a plan. Use the event link or app to see the list of employers attending, majors they are seeking and types of opportunities they have available. Decide who you want to meet with and then prioritize your list. To maximize the brief time you have with each employer, you need to know how your skills and interests match their needs. Don’t just concentrate on the “big names.” There are great opportunities with smaller companies and those you are not familiar with.
- A 30-second professional introduction. This is often called an “elevator pitch.” Share information about yourself, your most relevant skills and experience, the type of position you are seeking, and why you are interested in the organization. For example, “Hi, I’m Taylor Smith. I’m a junior mechanical engineering major here at UMass. I also work in the Innovation Makerspace where I help other students learn proper design techniques for additive manufacturing and create 3D printed parts. I enjoy design and 3D modeling and have used Creo and SolidWorks for many course projects, as well as independent projects. The work your company is doing with 3D printed turbine blades really caught my interest. Can you please tell me more about your Design Engineering internship and what you look for in top candidates?”
- Your resume. Bring 10 – 30 copies of your resume, depending on the size of the event. Your resume should effectively represent your knowledge, skills, and abilities. It needs to look professional, be in an easy-to-read format and be free of typos. If you are looking at several career options, you may want to have two or more targeted resumes based on career objectives. Stop by the Engineering Career Center for resume help, from creating a first draft to the final polish!
- A smile, a firm handshake, and a positive attitude. First impressions are important. Approach an employer, smile, and offer your hand when you introduce yourself.
- Energy! Career fairs require you to be on your feet for a long time talking to lots of people. Each time you meet someone, be at your best. Employers value enthusiasm and a positive attitude!
5 THINGS NOT TO TAKE TO THE CAREER FAIR
- Don’t “wing it” with employers. Do your homework! Research the companies just as you would for an interview. Focus on why you want to work for the organization and what you can do for them. Ask informed questions that show your interest in the company and position, not ones you can easily answer from their website.
- Don’t dress casually. A career fair is a professional activity—perhaps your first contact with a future employer. Dress to impress in business professional attire. See page 30 for tips.
- Don’t carry your backpack or extra stuff. Carry your resume in a professional-looking portfolio or folder. It will keep your resume neat and handy and will give you a place to file business cards of recruiters that you meet. Stow your coat, backpack, and other gear in a coatroom.
- Don’t talk to your dream company first. Visit your lower priority employers first so you can warm up and practice. While you are in line, observe how employers and students interact. Once you feel comfortable, head to your top priority companies!
- Don’t forget to thank recruiters after you speak with them. Ask for their business card or contact information. After each employer, write down some notes.
5 THINGS TO TAKE HOME FROM THE CAREER FAIR
- Business cards and/or contact information from the recruiters you have met. Send thank you notes to recruiters from the organizations in which you are most interested. If you cannot get contact information, try to get the full name of the recruiter so you can send them a thank you through LinkedIn.
- Notes about contacts you made. Write down important details about particular organizations, including names of people who may not have had business cards.
- Information about organizations and application instructions. Most recruiters will have information for you to pick up, such as company brochures and position descriptions. Promptly follow any application instructions provided by employers.
- A better sense of your career options. If you have used the event correctly, you will have made contact with several organizations that hire people with your skills and interests. In thinking about their needs and your background, evaluate whether each company is a good match for you.
- Self-confidence in interacting with employer representatives. A career fair gives you the opportunity to practice your interview skills in a less formidable environment than a formal interview. Use this experience to practice talking about your experience, skills and interests.
Adapted from “HOW TO SELL YOURSELF AT THE CAREER FAIR.” Courtesy of NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers.)