By Brian Harrington
5 Tips to Navigate a Career Fair
The career fair can be a great time to gain exposure to a variety of companies and types of roles. Whether you already know what you’d like to do, or are still in the exploration process, the Career Fair is an excellent way to gain more information. Here are some tips to help make attending and navigating the career fair a bit easier:
- Have a Game Plan: In preparing for the career fair, you probably did some research beforehand to create a list of companies and understand a bit about what they do or what they are here recruiting for. Make sure your list is a good, realistic goal number and then execute your strategy. You might be a bit nervous at first, so start with organizations that may be lower on your list. You want to be sure that by the time you reach your top company you’re prepared, practiced, and have plenty of time.
- Adjust the Plan as Necessary: You might have a schedule or priority of employers you want to speak to, but may find that a table is busy when you get there. If a table you want to talk to is busy, consider going to talk to other tables and come back. Many of the larger brand names will often attract the majority of students to their tables early on in the event. This can make it difficult to have direct conversations with recruiters and staff. Going over to another table can be a great way to practice your pitch and may even introduce you to a company that you had initially not considered
- It’s Okay to Wait: Speaking of popular employers, don’t be surprised if there are lines at some of the tables. That’s okay and pretty common. You can wait in line and use the opportunity to possibly learn more. As you get closer you may hear interesting questions being asked by other students or learn something new about the company as the recruiters are speaking. Just make sure to budget in time to wait in lines!
- Try it on Your Own: It’s great to go to the Career Fair with a group of friends, but once there, try to break away from the group strategy. You’ll often see groups of students go from table to table together. While groups can be good and can help answer questions that you hadn’t thought about, they can also make it difficult to have a memorable and individual conversation.
- Be You!: One of the best pieces of advice I ever got from a recruiter was that most people applying for positions meet the job requirements, but the thing that can separate an accepted candidate from a rejected one is often the question of “can I see myself sitting in the desk next to this person for 40+ hours a week”. Your personality and soft-skill development can play a large role in the application process. Asking larger questions about the company, such as community service initiatives the company is involved in, can reveal a bit of your personality and makes for a unique conversation. In your thank you email after the fair, you can also mention that conversation to help trigger the recruiter’s memory of the unique experience.
Every experience will be different (especially based on your grade level and where you may be at in the exploration process), but hopefully these tips can help you navigate the career fair easier and help make some solid connections.