Examining all the events that take place on a college campus, the career fair ranks right up there as one of the most prolific activities one should take advantage of but often is grossly under attended by the average student.
Don’t get me wrong, I myself have fond memories of the night we annihilated our rival and campus was showered in toilet paper. When I tossed that roll of Scotts 2 ply into a tree I knew I was crossing some obscure bridge as a rite of passage into what it really meant to be in college. As well as attending concerts on campus between the biology and math buildings, and the ‘dead week’ campus ritual of hiking from bar to bar in protest of actually studying during dead week. All great memories but none of those impacted my future as much the two hours I spent visiting with various company representatives at my college career fair.
Even if you’ve already got your summer plans nailed down, or already have a career lined up after graduation, you should still attend the career fair to build your professional network. Networking can be scary, but the career fair setting takes a little of that scariness away.
In a career fair setting employers are lined up waiting for you to network with them. You still have to make the first move to actually walk up and talk to the representative, but they want you to, and are expecting it! Having this structured setting to help break the ice is much easier than seeking these connections later when you are in the job or internship hunt and scrambling to find contacts.
Here are 3 simple steps you can take to prepare for your campus career fair:
- Spend thirty minutes the night before or morning of, Googling the list of companies who are attending and think of one question you’d like to ask each about their company, careers they have available, or what they personally like about their job. The conversation will grow from there and you’ll make a connection. Send thank you emails afterwards, connect with them on LinkedIn and you’ll start the process of maintaining your network.
- Dress appropriately to attend the career fair. I’ve been attending career fairs from a company standpoint for over 10 years now and have witnessed many different fashion trends on college campuses in a short amount of time. Students who invest a little more time selecting their attire the day of the event will have more engaging and meaningful conversations with company representatives. Company representatives want to talk to students who are serious about their future, how you are dressed will vouch for your seriousness before you ever say a word.
- Have something you can leave behind with the company representative. Obviously, a well prepared resume should be at the top of your list, but be creative to make yourself standout. Many companies no longer accept resumes during a career fair so set yourself apart and have a business card you can provide in lieu of or in addition to. There are numerous online resources for quick and easy printing of business cards at a very affordable price. Another great bonus of having a business card is that it gives you the opportunity to make a trade and ask for their card in return. This is a tried and true business gesture and will give you the representative’s contact information to follow up with them later, see point number 1!
AgCareers.com didn’t have a booth at my college’s career fair the two years I attended (we were much too young of a company to have a career fair presence in 2002/2003), but I can still tell you some of the companies I interacted with during the event. Just like I remember the toilet papering of campus, and concerts I attended on campus, I remember the connections I made during the career fair because I’ve reconnected with some of those companies in my professional career over the past 10 years. The value of networking is immeasurable when it comes to developing as a professional. Your campus career fair provides a great opportunity to network that should not be missed throughout your collegiate journey, and career fair preparation will gear you up for success.
Check out a more in-depth plan for preparing for your campus career fair in our Making the Most of a Career Fair article.