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Setting Expectations for Career Fairs

September 16, 2015

While there are many amazing things about the college experience, one event stands out as particularly helpful for all job-seeking students: career fairs. Recruiters and representatives from a variety of companies come to campus armed with information and on the look out for potential future employees. We want to make sure students are making the most of these events—here’s what we recommend as a recipe for career fair success.

Your first impression matters

We know you’re in college and casual attire usually is appropriate, but this is something different. Dress professionally, like you would if you already had the job you want. Put your best foot forward, because recruiters will take note and remember how you presented yourself. Give a strong, firm handshake and make solid eye contact. Speak clearly and respectfully.

Prepare before you attend the fair

John, a hiring expert from Textron, shares his advice: “Before attending the career fair be sure to research the company(s) that you will be speaking with. You are showing you have an interest in the company and can have a much better conversation with the representative if you are aware of aspects of the company.” The career services office at your college should be able to help you find out who will be attending the fair so you can research accordingly ahead of time. If not, you can still prepare by researching companies and positions you are interested in on a broader scale so that you are knowledgeable about the field and ready to have good conversations with recruiters.

Have a career direction in mind

Ashley, a hiring expert at Cardinal Health, advises: “It is important to have a clear plan with your career path and goals on the area of work you are interested in and qualified for. When speaking with a recruiter, you want to ensure you are discussing positions that fit with your education, interests and experience.” You don’t have to have every detail figured out, but it’s helpful to know what direction you are interested in heading in so that you can start to make progress toward your career goals.

Be realistic about what roles you are qualified for

Since you’re still in college, chances are you don’t have much experience in the field yet. That’s okay! Ashley added: “It is also important to understand that you will more than likely not be qualified for a manager level job when you are fresh out of college.” You might have to start at an entry-level position and spend time working your way up to where you hope to be, but it’s always good to have something to be working toward.

Bring materials and questions with you

Be sure to bring copies of your resume or your business card with you to the career fair so you can leave something tangible behind with recruiters. John adds: “It is important to provide all necessary work experience and your educational background when interested in a company. Be sure to keep it concise and to one page.”

Know that these fairs are excellent networking opportunities. Even if you don’t walk out of the fair with a job offer in hand (highly unrealistic) or with an interview on your calendar, these fairs are still worthwhile. “Not only can these be invaluable contacts that may help your post-grad job search, but they can potentially be great mentors and connectors to other individuals or opportunities,” Dustin from Hewlett-Packard says.

Make the most of any and all career fairs your college or university offers this school year—you never know how they will pay off. We wish you all the best of luck!

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