Preparing for Career Fairs
Career fairs are a great resource that colleges and universities often offer to help students network, learn how to talk to employers, and connect with a large variety of different companies and job opportunities. This is a great chance to make a good first impression with a potential boss or company. Attending career fairs is a great chance to practice and build on professional skills. You should consider attending them beginning as early as your first year of college, but it’s pretty much a must for your senior year. One of the most important aspects of a career fair is showing up prepared. Here are a few steps you can take to ensure that you are well prepared and ready to make a good impression at your next career fair.
- Research: Review the list of companies attending and pick the ones of interest to you. Next, research these companies, just as you would before a job interview, to know what the company does and how it operates. Then brainstorm specific questions that you could ask the company’s representative that sound insightful and not run-of-the-mill to imply that you are taking a special interest in their company.
- Resumes: Prepare special versions of your resume so they are specific to the companies you are interested in talking with. Have these different variations printed and neatly organized in a pathfinder or folder so you can hand them out to specific companies and any other individuals you talk with that sound like a promising connection. In addition, always bring extra copies of your general resume, which are not specified to a certain company, to pass out to companies you may not have considered during your research prep work but ended up having great conversations with at the fair. Also, make sure to use resume paper to print out your copies instead of basic computer paper. Resume paper is heavier and more professional looking. This shows a company representative you are prepared, can be professional, and care about their company.
- Dress: Arrive to the career fair dressed like you would for your dream job interview. Some companies will hire candidates on the spot, and you do not want to miss out on a great opportunity because of not looking professional enough. Some companies may have a more relaxed dress code, but in the case of a career fair, it is always better to be overdressed than underdressed. For men, generally wearing a suit and tie is the basic go to business attire. For women, a blazer and dress pants are always a safe option. Skirts and dresses are okay, but can be more debatable depending on length. It may be safer to avoid them altogether. A small purse is an easy accessory to bring to put personal belongings in without having to lug something around. Professional make-up and jewelry is best. Nothing too bulky or flashy, just enough to look nice.
- Follow Up: After the career fair is over, it is still the perfect time to continue your networking. Always follow up with companies you spoke to, specifically the company’s representative you talked with at the fair. Often employers will freely give out their business cards to the students who come to their booths, so make sure you get one in order to keep in touch. Obtaining a business card from a specific person is ideal because now you have a direct contact in the company. By following up with an email thanking the company for coming to the career fair and talking with you, not only are you reminding the company’s representative who you are, but you also are demonstrating that you care about the company enough to continue perusing potential employment.
In the latter part of your college career, it is time to begin looking at job opportunities and making connections with companies. You never know who you could possibly meet or what could happen if you go to events like career fairs prepared and excited to learn, grow, and network.