Most colleges have career fairs (also called job fairs) on campus for their students. Company representatives (often called recruiters) will attend to promote their company and scout potential talent.
No matter where you are in your education, career fairs can be beneficial. If you are at the beginning your education you will discover what employers are seeking in new hires and can develop a strategy to acquire the skills and experiences that employers desire. If you are in the middle of your college education you can find opportunities for internships and cooperative education (sometimes referred to as Co-Ops) at career fairs. If you are getting ready to graduate you may be able to secure job leads and even interviews.
To make the most of your career fair experiences, follow these guidelines:
Research the companies before the career fair
Try to find out what companies will be attending the career fair and research them. Many career services offices will make lists available of employers who will attend. In many cases your career services office will also have literature about the company you can use to begin your research. In addition, you could review company websites, related newspaper articles, websites that review businesses, or visit your college's library.
When you are doing your research, there are several different types of information you could search for:
- What does the company do?
- When was it founded? What is its history?
- What is the company's mission statement? What are its goals?
- How large is it? How many employees does it have?
- What is its organizational structure?
- How many locations does it have? Where is the headquarters? Where are the other locations?
- Is the company making a profit? What are its earnings?
- Is the company growing? What is its projected growth?
- Who are the major competitors of the company?
- What types of difficulties is the company facing?
- What are the current trends in the industry?
Develop a 60-second sales pitch
Whether you are looking for a job, seeking an internship, or trying to make professional connections, it is important to sell yourself to the recruiters at the career fair. To do so, you will need to present your sales pitch quickly because both you and the recruiter have limited time. You will likely want to visit multiple companies and the recruiters have many students to meet.
In order to sell yourself quickly and effectively, you should develop a 60-second sales pitch (also called an elevator pitch) for yourself. You need a concise speech that describes the qualities you most want the recruiter to know that you possess.
Write out your sales pitch and discuss it with a career counselor on your campus. Practice saying it to friends or into a recording device (many telephones allow sound recording and many computers allow you to video tape yourself). Time it to make sure it does not last more than one minute. Practice until you can remember it without notes.
Some colleges have dress codes for their career fairs. Even if your college does not have specific requirements for dress, you want to make sure your clothing is appropriate. Generally speaking, you will want to wear business attire. Your career services office can advise you about what is considered appropriate for each particular fair.
Bring a polished copy of your resume
If you are seeking an internship or employment opportunities, you will want to have a copy of your resume to distribute. You will want the resume you give to the recruiters to impress them. That means that the format should appear professional and the content should emphasize your best skills. Visit your college's career services office to learn how to write a professional resume and to have your resume critiqued by a career counselor.
Ask good questions
Don't ask recruiters questions that you could have learned by a quick scan of their website. Questions such as "What does your company do?" will not impress the recruiter. As well-thought out questions that demonstrate you did your research. Write down your questions before you attend. It may also be helpful to review your questions with a career counselor.
Collect employers' business cards
Collect business cards from every recruiter you talk to at the career fair. After the career fair, email them a professional thank you note letting them know that you appreciated their time. Even if you are not applying for a position with their company, it could be helpful to keep their contact information with a notation of when and how you met them; you never know when it may be helpful to have them as a contact.
Even though career fairs can be useful regardless of your level in college, attendance if often not enough. Following the guidelines above can improve the effectiveness of your career fair attendance.