With the school year in full swing, career fairs are happening around campus, ready for students of all years and majors.
Career fairs are hosted by colleges, academic departments, chapters of the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, and Career and Professional Development, and they add up to more than 25 fairs each academic year.
Participating in these career fairs allows students to learn more about employers than possible from their websites. Whether you are looking for a job or an internship, or hoping to learn more about different career fields, taking part in a career fair can foster valuable networking opportunities.
If it’s your first time participating in a career fair, here is a survival guide with helpful tips from the experts at Career and Professional Development.
Before the fair
Research the company in advance.
Before you make your way to a fair, check the career fair list that links to each event’s website. You’ll be able to see which companies and employers are participating in the fair and the positions for which they are hiring. Then, you can start researching relevant information about the company or recruiters who will be in attendance to help tailor your message to each employer.
“Relationships are so important,” said Donna Ratcliffe, the director for Career and Professional Development. “A company sending representatives to campus, many of whom are alumni, is beneficial to students so that they can meet them in-person and promote themselves. That’s how you make connections”
Make a list of your top choices.
While numerous employers may interest you, you might not have time to connect with every employer, and not every employer may be a fit for you. By making an “A” list for your top companies and a “B” list for a selection of secondary choices, you can focus your attention on a select few companies and avoid feeling overwhelmed by the myriad of recruiters and company booths.
Additionally, job fairs often have long lines, so Ratcliffe recommends carving out enough time to be there, which might require making alternate plans with prior commitments.
Have your resume on hand.
Make multiple copies of your resume to hand out to various recruiters, even if you didn’t get enough time to speak to them. Providing hard copies of resumes to employers will make it easy for them to glance over your skills and experiences while they’re speaking with you. Sometimes, employers cannot accept hard copy resumes and will ask you to apply online. Even so, making the effort to provide a resume to each employer is a great way to convey interest and diligence toward a company.
Prepare an elevator pitch.
An elevator pitch is a short but memorable description of who you are, your career interest, and why an employer should be interested in you. Preparing an elevator pitch ahead of time can help ease you into a conversation with a recruiter without feeling overwhelmed about what information to share first.
To best deliver your elevator pitch, Ratcliffe advised to prepare but not memorize your pitch to avoid sounding unnatural and robotic.