By Laura Franklin, Corporate Recruiter
December 12th, 2012
With exams winding down and holiday break upon us, it’s hard to believe that winter career fair season will be in full swing in a few short weeks. Each year hundreds of students filter through gymnasiums stopping at various booths, listening to sales pitch after sales pitch on “why you should work for our company,” ultimately in search for their dream job. It’s a balance of determining not only what company is right for you, but more importantly marketing yourself to that company. Students have mere minutes to sell themselves and make a lasting impression before the theoretical “bell rings” and they are scooted on to the next booth to repeat the same motions. I once heard career fairs be compared to speed dating which, oddly enough…isn’t a far stretch. Wondering what you need to know to land that interview with your dream company? Read on…
Elevator pitch- have one ready and be prepared to say it (a lot). Companies will evaluate you based upon a 3 minute or less conversation. This needs to be a simple, short summary on you (i.e. educational background, professional/internship experience, leadership/involvement and/or accomplishments). Employers don’t need to hear every detail about your upbringing, food allergies or fantasy football league. Make it descriptive and memorable, but more importantly…to the point.
Confidence is key. Give each representative from the company a firm handshake and maintain consistent eye contact. Be engaging with your questions about the company to learn what you need to know to determine if you wish to continue a future dialog with them about internship or career opportunities. Remember, interviewing is a two way street. When given time for your own questions, use it! You want to obtain the information you need to determine if this is a company where you will be successful.
Want to avoid a rookie mistake? Take my advice. Don’t pull a “booth drive by” and take the freebies/swag and walk away. Spend the time learning about what the company does, what their culture is like and the opportunities they are hiring for. Sometimes it’s the smaller, unknown companies that have golden opportunities worth considering that could be a perfect match for you.
A survival kit is essential. Yes, ensure you have resumes, a notebook and your calendar ready for when you’re booking interviews. However, the forgotten essentials are often hand sanitizer, water, and (without a doubt) gum or mints. No one needs to be guessing what you ate for breakfast when you are speaking in close proximity.
That being said, career fairs are an excellent opportunity to learn the fundamentals of the professional world. Networking, small talk, and always coming confidently prepared are going to be essential to your career in the long run. Even if this year’s career fair does not lead to the dream job or internship you were hoping for, don’t be discouraged! With hard work and dedication throughout the year, I am confident you will eventually find that golden opportunity that is waiting around the corner. Sometimes your first job isn’t always the “dream” job you imagined, but it leads you to learn something new and find an amazing opportunity that you didn’t even know you were seeking. And that is always worthwhile.
Best of luck this winter and I hope to see some of you at your school’s career fair!