Yes, “prepare for fall campus career fairs” belongs on your to-do list as you return to campus for the fall.
“Prepare” might mean: “decide that campus career fairs aren’t a good use of my time.” That’s a perfectly reasonable choice. Bad choice? Not going because it didn’t occur to you, or because you hadn’t really paid attention to the possibility.
So why go to a career fair? The chances are slight that you will walk away from a career fair with an internship offer in hand. It’s possible that you will not land any interviews. Also possible: there will no recruiters from industries or companies you know you want to work for.
Go anyway. Here’s why:
- You don’t know what you don’t know, and talking to a wide array of recruiters is a good way to start filling in some gaps.
- You can try out being the future professional version of yourself, the one who wears office-ready clothes and talks to fellow professionals. It may feel weird at first, but that’s okay. Career fair interactions are fleeting, and no one cares.
- You can practice talking to employers and networking with absolutely nothing at stake. You can stumble over your words, test-drive a risky “pitch,” ask stupid questions…and then move on to the next table.
- There’s swag. Get stocked up on pens and post-it notes.
- It’s going to be easier and more friendly than you think.
- You will walk away with more confidence in yourself and your future.
- You might have a conversation that leads to future opportunities.
Here’s how to prepare for a useful career fair experience:
- Make sure you have some office appropriate clothes. A suit is great, but you can blend in just fine with dress pants/skirt, a professional looking shirt/top/sweater, dress shoes (no sneakers or flipflops!).
- Update your resume. Get it reviewed at LAS Career Services or the Career Center.
- Check dates and times for campus career fairs. Block out time in your schedule for the ones you plan to attend. Note that career fairs are open to all students.
- Review the list of employers (available on the Handshake page for each fair) and identify a handful that you know you want to talk to. (You will probably end up talking to others — but having a few specific employers to seek out will give you direction.)
If you are actively seeking an internship for next summer or a job for after graduation, some additional steps may be helpful:
- Do additional research on the companies you know you want to talk to. Look at the positions those companies are seeking to fill and read up on the company.
- Prepare some questions to ask that show you’ve done your research, and prepare a few talking points about why you would be a good fit for the role.
- Consider attending a career fair preparation event. LAS Career Services, The Career Center, and individual companies all hold workshops and information sessions leading up to the career fair that can help you
- If you have the option of uploading a resume or applying online for jobs associated with the career fair, go ahead and do that. Talking to the recruiter at the fair can help to flag your application and get it more directly to the hiring manager.
- Bring hard copies of your resume with you to the career fair: at least 3 for each company you know you want to talk to plus and additional 10.