Still on the hunt for a summer internship, I attended the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s (the Office formerly known as Minority Affairs) Career Fair to see if I could check out organizations that I would like to work for.
I find career fairs to be a little intimidating. You’re competing with other people who could be better than you in so many ways (appearance, conversation, experience, etc.) – it can make you not even want to participate. My coworker had been talking about the fair for at least a week, but I decided that morning “Eh I guess I’ll go” (which isn’t the best attitude to have if you’re looking for an internship). On top of that you have all of these companies there looking for talent, but you don’t know what’s going on in their minds and they are essentially judging every single interaction they have. Never knowing the type of person you are interacting with, one slip-up could blow your chance with the organization. And I may not be aware of the “slip up” – every recruiter has his/her own personality, preferences, etc., and where one may want ultimate professionalism another may want that but doesn’t mind a little “flair.” The thing is you don’t know!
Regardless if you have these kind of mixedfeelings, unfortunately I’m not that awesome where I can sponsor a “Garren Fair” where businesses come up to me and ask me if I feel like working for their organizations … so you have to Miley Cyrus it and let “the butterflies fly away”, nod your head like ‘yeah’ and get into the zone.
Now, as someone who is still looking for an internship I am by no means any kind of career adviser; however these are some things that I did that may be helpful for some people going to a career fair.
Class It Up
I believe the power suit is definitely appropriate for a career fair. Save the business casual until you actually have the position. Some recruiters will interview you within less than 24 hours after meeting you, so you want to look spot on.
Have a Target
Aimlessly going to every organization attending the fair may seem like the best way to go about it. However, you want to be prepared and remember information about the organizations you interact with. Yesterday’s career fair had 30+ organizations present. You can’t possibly research (and remember) that many companies to have something to talk about with each recruiter, PLUS if you do follow up you have to remember all those names. Granted you could write them down, but that’s a lot of time and effort. You should spend time and effort before a career fair but focus on companies you are actually interested – not every organization is going to align with your interests. For example, this career fair had an online list of organizations that would be present. So I highlighted the ones that were interested in hiring interns and business/HR students. From there, I was able to narrow it down to the ones I wanted to look at. It’s a lot easier to act like you’re interested in a company when you really are. Plus, if the career fair you go to is well organized, they will take your resume and distribute it to all the companies that attended … so even if you couldn’t meet every organization in attendance, you may get noticed and contacted by a recruiter for a company that you had not even thought of!
I went with my coworker to the Career Fair. The buddy system may work in most situations, and plus you can help practice your presentation skills with each other and critique one another.
Try to find away to compliment the recruiter or the company in some way (everyone likes a good comment). One person I talked to told me she was the only HR person for the entire organization. I acted extremely impressed (well it wasn’t an act but I think I physically showed surprise and awe). It was not technically a compliment, but I am sure the woman got the impression that I was impressed with her and thought she had a very important job…I believe that was the recruiter that I connected with the most.
I don’t think many people know about this until at least their junior year of college, but there is hi-grade professional looking resume paper that really helps your resume stand out. It is not expensive, and you can go to a UniPrint on campus, give them a regular copy of your resume, and it will print it out on resume paper.
Thank you cards really help you stand out from other job/internship seekers, and let a company that you truly are interested in them (especially when personally addressed to the recruiter). I plan on sending a thank you note to one of the organizations that told me they had the potential for an HR Intern. I unfortunately forgot my contact’s name BUT if it is at a career fair, the organizers will probably have a list of contacts, so I plan on contacting them to get the person’s name.
… well, for the most part. Some people will need to actually have to add some pep in their step or tone it down a notch, but in general you want to be with a organization that likes you and that you like. You shouldn’t have to turn into another person to get a job. If you do, you are probably not going to be a good fit and vice versa. Be yourself.
P.S. – The Career Fair wasn’t just for people who are considered “diverse” – it was open to everyone.