Monday, February 13, 2017

career series: attending a career fair

Last week I went to my first and last university career fair as a college student. I was honestly dreading it, which is one of the reasons why I've never been, but it was really a great experience. I was able to interact with so many different companies that I had previously not been considering and found out a lot of useful information that will help me as I start applying for jobs.

I talked to around ten companies and ended up giving my résumé to five of those because I had done research on all of the companies that would be attending ahead of time and knew exactly which ones I was seriously interested in. I left very excited about the company that had been my top choice going in - their representatives were so nice and they even gifted me with a few of their products. I could definitely see myself working with them. I'm currently waiting for a phone call and intend to follow up soon.

One of the things I was worried about prior to the event was what I would wear. My school is very strict about professional dress for these events and I don't have many professional outfits at the moment. I ended up wearing a simple black dress, black cardigan, and black flats which turned out fine. They didn't allow large purses at the event so I carried a small black cross-body bag and my résumés in a portfolio. It was a little awkward trying to reach inside the portfolio while speaking with companies, especially as the informative papers I was collecting at each booth accumulated, so in the future I would take something easily accessible and try to be a little more organized although that might be impossible while constantly walking around and being given papers and business cards.

I found that it was also very important to have a question about the company or their jobs available because the representatives are expecting you to have basic knowledge of what they do, what positions they're trying to fill, and where they're located. When you approach a company table, be sure to shake hands and introduce yourself right away - I always stated my name, major, and graduation month and then went into my questions. Most of the time I started by asking what they were looking for in an employee.

I think it's so important to show genuine interest to anyone you're speaking to, even if you've decided you aren't very interested in working there during the conversation. Never interrupt them or try to leave before the conversation has ended. Be sure to say thank you to every single person you speak with because they took their time to share valuable knowledge with you. Make a good impression on everyone, don't just focus on certain companies, because you never know where opportunities may present themselves.

Finally, try to get the contact information of the person you spoke with so that you can follow up. Many representatives had business cards but make sure you have a pen and paper so that you can write down their email address or phone number if they don't. I found out that my nerves were unnecessary because everyone was friendly and wanted to be there. My advice is just be yourself and don't focus on being so professional that you come off as cold and impersonal. I would also recommend going to a career fair as a sophomore, junior, or senior - even if you aren't looking for a job or internship - just to have that experience so that you're more comfortable when you are looking. You could end up finding your dream internship along the way.