Graduating from college is an exciting time but it can also be pretty daunting. After years of education not to mention the small matter of revision for your final exams you’re now being asked to think about, wait for it, the rest of your life!
What do you want to do and who for? Where do you want to do it and what do you want to get out of it? These are the kind of life defining questions that can seem overwhelming at first.
The good news is that a careers fair is not the be-all-and-end-all. It’s not the only route into a new career and it’s not your only chance to talk or even apply to a company or organization. A careers fair can be like speed dating, a light touch introduction, a casual meeting not a do-or-die you’re in or you’re out interview, so relax.
That said first impressions count and some organizations do offer initial interviews at fairs so if you impress the next step could be quicker than you think. So here are a few tips to ensure you make the most of the opportunities a college fair has to offer.
Before you go...
What are your career goals?
You should be clear about what you want from a career and an employer. Spend time thinking about what will make you happy, not just what you will do day-to-day but what you actually do and where you want to be longer term. Do you want to work in another country at some point? Do you want to work in a place that recognizes individual or a team performance? What culture do you flourish in?
Consider and explore these kinds of questions before you go and don’t be scared to ask for details or examples from organizations so you can evaluate them against each other as well as your own criteria. It’ll save time for you and them if you can quickly zero in on those companies where you can give your best.
Research the companies attending the fair.
Take a critical look at all the companies attending the fair and do some research beforehand. Company websites are a must but a news search might show you a more rounded picture of the company. Depending on how much time you have you could be extra creative and connect with alumni from your school who currently work at the company. Nothing catches the attention of a recruiter as much as a potential employee who can demonstrate genuine interest in their company.
Be open minded!
You will have heard about many of the large companies that are attending your school’s career fair but don’t miss out on new companies that may match exactly what you are looking for. Talk to as many people as you can. You’ll be surprised by how many different organizations and jobs will actually fulfill your career goals and ambitions.
Your major or degree doesn’t define you or restrict you.
Most companies will hire you for your core skills and competencies, not just because of what you’ve learned in the classroom. Do you have a scientific degree but can’t see yourself in a lab all day? Talk to companies whose clients and end users might value your science knowledge and analytical skills but could be a million miles away from scientific research.
Be available to interview.
Many companies will hold onsite interviews at your school that same day or the following day but they will have a limited number of slots available. If you like what you see at a particular company, ask when they are holding interviews and let them know you’d love to meet them again ASAP. If they aren’t holding interviews at your school, find out if you can go and visit their office or interview remotely.
While you are there…
Highlight your key skills.
In much the same way as your degree doesn’t define you, make sure you spell out the personal qualities you have that may raise you above someone who has the same degree as you. Play up your personal skills and abilities to ensure that the recruiter sees you as a fully rounded individual who offers more than just a degree. You want to be memorable for all the right reasons so use your research to your advantage and impress them with how well you’ll fit in with their company ethos.
Remember, just as recruiters want to find the ideal new recruits for them, you want to find the right company for you. Don’t be shy about exploring what they do, how they do it and ask about the more personal side of the company. It’s a good way to demonstrate your background knowledge as well as how serious you are about the company.
Bring multiple copies of your up-to-date resume.
When we say multiple copies we mean physical and digital. Even in these days of online profiles and digital formats this is one of those times when a good old paper copy of your resume can be really useful. At the very least you can thrust it into their hands for a quick scan. You should also be ready to instantly send them an email with your CV attached. If it’s an option you can link with the recruiter and maybe even tweet positively about them after your meeting.
Be prepared for innovative interview techniques.
Interviews can be anything from initial phone calls, to face-to-face grilling’s and you should be ready to make yourself available for all of them. You might also have to deal with video conference calls looping in people from around the world, these are increasingly common.
Many companies are now set up to allow you to send in a video selling yourself to them as part of their assessment process.
Match your communication style
Speak to the people at your school beforehand and see if you can get a handle on their style of some of the top companies. If they’re known for being straight to the point and efficient then be ready to match their style, alternatively if they have a laidback easy going style then don’t go bowling in bristling with facts figures and asking for interview appointments.
The best advice bar none though is this, be yourself and good luck.