This blog post has been provided by our intern, Meghan Farrell.
It’s that time of the year again, a day that can fill students with dread – the career fair. Getting dressed up in our slacks and uncomfortable shoes, printing out (hopefully enough) resumes for everyone we speak to and waiting in line nervously, wondering how to stand out from the other hundred plus students in attendance, are just a few things we worry about. But career fairs shouldn’t be something you avoid. These events can be the perfect opportunity to meet your future employer and get meaningful networking experience. And with UT’s Moody College of Communications Career Fair on September 26, we thought it would be the perfect time to roll out some advice on how to tackle these opportunities.
Do Some Research
It’s okay if you don’t recognize every company attending the career fair. However, doing some research ahead of time on the businesses in attendance is imperative, even ones that might not necessarily be on your radar. This is one of the only opportunities where all of these businesses will be in the same place, so make the most of it and explore your options fully. While you don’t need to know every detail about each company, it makes a big difference when you are familiar with what they do. Visit their website or blog and get an idea of the type of work they do. You can ask them about a certain client or case study, or an open position they have listed; this will show that you didn’t come unprepared. It demonstrates that you are interested in what they do and have taken the time to learn about them beforehand. As you wait in those long lines to speak to someone, bring along notes to review so when it’s your turn to shine, you have lots of ammo for the conversation. On top of that, some colleges provide information on every company that will be in attendance on their app, so see if your school offers it and use it to your advantage!
Dress the Part
“Dress for the job you want, not the job you have” may sound cliché or lame, but it can make or break a company’s first impression of you. The representatives at each booth came dressed for the part, so you should too. While formal business attire has become less common for employees today, it still plays a part in making a lasting impression on prospective employers. They want to see that you made the effort to get ready for the event, take your career seriously, and that if hired, you would be able to dress professionally. UT also requires that you arrive in professional dress, so don’t make the mistake of preparing for the career fair only to be asked to leave because you showed up in jeans.
It can be awkward deciding the right time to give someone your resume or business card, but recruiters want them! Even if it turns out you don’t qualify for the position, ask them to hold onto your resume in case something opens up. That company may be looking for someone for a position in the future and remember you and think, “Wow, this person I met at the UT career fair would be perfect for this role, let me go find their resume and contact them.” You worked hard on those materials so hand them out! Even ask for their card; they probably have a stack of about 200 in their office so I’m sure they would love to get rid of one.
A very important step that many students forget is to follow up after the career fair. If you had a particularly memorable or exciting conversation with someone, go ahead and shoot them an email explaining how great it was to meet them. This will lead to the beginning of a professional relationship with that person, and even if you don’t end up working together, it’s always beneficial to have another contact in your field. Even if you felt like the conversation didn’t go so well or was a bit awkward, contact them anyways. It never hurts to let them know you appreciated speaking with them, because at the end of the day they took the time out of their schedule to be at the career fair, too.
Take A Deep Breath
Career fairs can be very nerve-racking, but at the end of the day they are an amazing opportunity to learn about the companies in your area. They give you valuable pitching experience, something that is very beneficial in our field, and provide insight into the real working world. If you want to get hired, you are going to need to learn to vouch for yourself, so get out there and tell these employers why you would be valuable to their company. You have a lot to offer as a young professional, so take a deep breath and take that bull that is the career fair by the horns.