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Nailing The Job Fair – Making This Essential Event Your Own

‘Tis the season, here comes the fall job fair.  Next week I am at both Howard University and MIT with a workshop that is designed for students to ‘own’ their job fair experience.  How do they prepare in order to be performing in the top 10% of all students who attend job fairs this fall everywhere in America?  That’s the essence of the sessions.

Remember, for the corporate campus recruiter, this falls job fair is far from their first rodeo.  They are hitting a series of them as they do every fall and spring.  They are experts in spotting talent that are a fit.  By fit, I mean:

  • Qualified, as in having the skills, education and abilities to be considered for an appropriate role in their organization
  • A cultural fit into their organization (values, behaviors, beliefs, norms, pace, work ethic and goals)
  • Goals and aspirations that match up for both you and them
  • And spotting potential candidates that can make their organization more formidable

Not only are they searching for candidates that meet the above criteria, they are measured on their results.  Further, in most companies, they measure how these new-hires do over time as well.  They thrive, and the recruiter gets major accolades.

But Sometimes Things Don’t Work Out

If you have the potential to be great, to become amazing in their organization, and you walk into their booth at the job fair unprepared, you could be disregarded and no one will ever know what might have been.  And that might have been, could have been life changing.

The fall job fair is the key annual event to gain employment whether that is for an internship or a full time offer.  The spring job fair is almost always smaller.

Nailing The Job Fair

  • All students need to attend.  Participation itself does three things:
    • You get good at the drill
    • You see just how important job search skills are in order to stand out
    • You begin to develop relationships with the Corporate Campus Recruiters
  • Prerequisite Skills:  It would be great if you had your resume perfect, your LinkedIn looking the best it can, a polished elevator pitch and you had warmed up at the career center with some mock interviewing.  IF NOT, go anyway and do your best.  Skills rise with participation.  You will be highly motivated to improve these skills and collaterals after the job fair.
    • Pre-Job Fair Preparation:  I will link to an article that will go into depth on this.  If you are reading this in a newspaper, go to their online version for the links and if they are not there, then head to LearnEarnRetire.com.  You need to be ready, spend a bit of time researching and prioritize who you want to see.  Know four things:
      • Know what you are seeking:
        • Internship
        • Job Offer
        • When you are available
      • What that organization does
      • Why you are interested in that organization
      • Two good questions (if you do enough digging, you will have the questions)
    • Executing the Day Of The Job Fair:  Go alone so you can focus and bring a stack of resumes and notes from your research.  Make an impression, and then jot down some notes about your conversation so you can follow up. 
    • Post Job Fair Follow-UpFollow-up with an email within 12 hours of the event with a thank you.  In that email, refer to something you spoke about and why you are interested.  Seek next actions (like a phone interview for any follow-up actions).

What If You Are a Freshman?

Go anyway, but set your expectations realistically.  If you are seeking an internship over this coming summer, those are tough because the date of potential hire is farther away.  It gets easier for Sophomores and Juniors. You MUST get an internship by then.

The road to multiple offers is paved with internships.

Know most of those recruiters will be back for the spring job fair and nearly all will be back next fall.  Making a great impression will serve you well in to the future.

Finally, you need to get good at this.  The Department of Labor estimates that you will have many jobs over the course of your career and you will be searching every two to four years.  The skills you develop here will serve you your whole career.  These skills are incredibly valuable.

Good Luck!

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