Career Fairs are an excellent way to learn and explore industries and companies. Some career fairs are solely focused on hiring for full time, post-graduation positions but there are also career fairs focused on internship program hiring. Career fairs are typically held in the fall but internship career fairs can often be held in late winter or early spring. The first step is to introduce yourself to your school’s career office and find out what your school offers.
A few “To-dos” to check off before attending the fair:
1. Register and review the list of companies that are attending and create a list that ranks which ones are most interesting to you.
2. Be sure to complete all questions asked when you register. Upload your resume or any other docs requested. If you don’t, you might not be able to register for some of the company sessions. Some companies may require a certain GPA to participate in their session.
3. Understand your interview options – are there opportunities to schedule 1:1 and/or group sessions?
4. Research your top target companies – know their mission, values, culture, key initiatives, leadership team, public/private, what makes them unique and where do they sit within their competitive set.
5. Prepare and practice your elevator pitch. Have a short 15-second quick introduction pitch and a longer version to use when time allows. Use self-awareness to understand each situation and how much time you have.
6. Prepare questions specific to each company.
7. Make sure your LinkedIn is fully filled out and up to date.
What to bring and know when you attend the fair:
1. Be on time – always arrive a few minutes early!
2. Bring a clean folder with 2 resumes for each company you’re hoping to meet.
3. Business cards are optional. However, there are free and inexpensive ways to make simple biz cards (gotprint.com is well priced). This can be another way to get noticed and remembered by recruiting contacts.
3. Dress professionally.
4. Be prepared to take notes.
5. Remember to ask for contact information (email) from each person you meet.
Additional tips for Virtual Career Fairs:
1. Make sure you have a well-lit space and that your computer, microphone, lighting is all in order. Do a practice run!
2. The Chat function is often used to ask questions. Make sure you keep all communication professional – use fully spelled out words, no emojis or acronyms. Wait your turn – if your question gets answered, hold off on asking another question until others have had a chance.
What to do after the fair:
1. Follow up within 24 hours with each hiring contact that you met. Skip the generic note – write a personalized note to each person you meet. Be sure to thank them for their time, include at least 1-2 references from the conversation and state your enthusiasm for the company/role.
2. Request the company representative(s) to connect on LinkedIn. Include a note with your request to remind them who you are, your interest in their company, and to thank them for their time.
Company direct opportunities:
One other way to learn and connect with companies is to attend their information sessions. Many companies will host these types of sessions on campus but they will also offer these sessions to the general public on a first-come, first-serve basis - similar to an open house. The virtual world has made these sessions more frequent and more accessible. You can find registration and information about these sessions on LinkedIn, company websites and through your campus career office.
Finally, don't forget to stay organized in your internship and career search. Create a document to keep track of the career fairs you attend, the people you meet and their contact information plus any common ground that you may have learned. You never know when that person will show up again in your career journey!