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Spotlight: How to Work a Career Fair

The following information is compiled from a variety of sources (including the TAMU Career Center) and personal experiences of the SEC Career Fair committee.  There are no guarantees at these events, but focusing on some of these ideas could help you achieve your objective at the fair.

Goals

You should have one or more of these ideals in mind when preparing for the Career Fair.

  • Networking - Collect business cards, make contacts, establish connections
  • Become Comfortable - Learn to "be yourself" while interacting with potential employers. This experience will pay-off later on during interviews and site visits.
  • Land a Job - Duh! Obviously, this is the long term goal, but very rarely does a student walk out of the career fair with an envelope full of job offers. The career fair is the first step on the road to this goal.
  • Discover New Companies - Did you know that Mom & Pop, Inc. sometimes has the largest salaries? Some companies pay hundreds of dollars to attend the Career Fair even though they are only searching for one, single student. You could be that student with the specialty they are looking for. Take some time to introduce yourself to any companies that are hiring your major.
  • Stay at Home - The Career Fair may be your best shot at finding a job in the same geographic region as the fair. National Job-Sites do not focus on specific regions.

Before the Fair

A successful trip to the Career Fair depends on how much time you spend preparing before the event.

  • Establish Your Objective - You do not have to know exactly what you want to do, but you will be better off if you attack the fair with an objective in mind. It could be vague, such as "Find an internship in the Oil & Gas Industry," but this is better than approaching a booth with the "Ummm - I don't really know" answer.
  • Do Your Homework - The SEC website (http://sec.tamu.edu) has a state-of-the-art search engine that will help you find the companies that you are interested in. Search by company name, industry, majors hiring, and more. Find out where (in the venue) they are located and plan your route through Reed Arena.
  • Be Prepared to Converse - Remember, the recruiters will see hundreds of students just like you at the fair. Once you know which companies you will visit, spend a few minutes and develop some questions or conversation topics that you can use to help yourself stand out at the fair. It's ok to bring along a cheat sheet - just don't read from it at the booths!
  • Prepare your Resume - Duh again! Did you know that there are hundreds of proven techniques that will help you achieve your objective at the fair? You may think your resume is perfect, but it's probably not. Let your mom, classmate, professor, previous employer, and little brother read it. Respect their advice, then visit some of the online resources (http://careercenter.tamu.edu is an excellent one) to tie it all together.
  • Match Your Leathers - Prepare your attire. Make sure you have a plan for carrying your resume, along with the other things you will acquire at the fair (A portfolio that is the same color as your belt and shoes is a classic look). Take your suit to the Dry Cleaners at least a week before the fair.
  • Answer & Dish Out Questions - Look online at the cliché questions that you will get asked and can ask the recruiters at the fair.

At the Fair

Ok - Game Time.  Remember to relax and be yourself.

  • Get There Early - The recruiters get tired, so be the first to bark up their tree. We see recruiters leave early every year to go eat dinner with the students that got their attention that morning. Although we cannot endorse skipping class, hindsight generally tells us that missing one class early in the semester doesn't hurt too bad.
  • Get Your Bearings - Pick up a student booklet and mark any changes to the company list. Spend some time on your nametag - make it look professional. Step to the side, take a deep breath, and go back over your plan for the fair. Then, execute your plan.
  • Consider a "Warm Up" Company - On your way to the first big company you want to speak with, stop by a booth with no students and throw down your game. This will help you work out your nerves and wake up. Tell the recruiter thank you for their time, and then continue with your plan.
  • Never Leave a Booth Without Contact Information - You always want to have a way to get back into contact with the person that you spoke with at the booth. Ask for a card, email address, or telephone number. This way, you can (a) write thank you cards, (b) remind them that you are interested in their company, and (c) get back into touch with them if you do not hear from them after the fair.
  • What's Next? - Develop a plan before you leave the booth. Let the recruiter know that you are ready to take the next step, or whatever it takes to land the position. Ask things like, 'Will you be having interviews?", "Are there Information Sessions on the Calendar?", "Is there another way to apply for positions besides the website?" This way, they know that you are here to play.
  • Take Notes - You will not remember everything that you think you will. Write EVERYTHING down. You may think that you will remember that recruiters email address or last name, but after the game is over and the adrenaline rush is over, it will slip your mind. It's perfectly acceptable to take notes. Bring paper and a nice pen, then use them.

After the Fair

It's not over when you walk out the door.  Your follow-up plan could set you apart from the others.

  • Consider Writing Thank You Notes - If you really want to make your mark, sometimes a hand-written thank you note will go a long way. Recruiters will go home from the fair, sit around for a couple of days, and then begin sifting through resumes and looking at notes. If your thank you card arrives at their desk while they are doing this, then you could really set yourself apart.
  • Organize Contact Information - Using your preferred networking tool, organize the contact information of all of the recruiters that you met. You never know - this time next year, you may want to get back into touch with them about positions or company information.
  • Follow Up With Your Plans - If you are adhering to the advice in this document, then you will have a "Next Step" with each company that you met. Make sure that you follow through with these steps. Recruiters will be expecting students to apply for jobs, sign up for interviews, and attend information sessions. Stay in touch and follow up.
  • Be Persistent - There is a difference between annoying and persistent, and annoying rarely comes into the picture during recruiting cycles. There is nothing lost by emailing, re-emailing, and calling recruiters about the positions that you want. They understand that you are eager to begin working, and they will tell you if the position has been filled or if you are getting on their nerves. Never give up on a position until you know it is gone.

Not everything above may be right for you.  Figure out what you think will make your trip the the Career Fair most effective, and stick to that plan.  Remember, these recruiters spend 5-10 weeks per semester on the road at various recruiting events.  What are you going to do to separate yourself from the pack?

Let us know!

What's worked for you at the fair? Send us an email, tell us about it, and your tip might show up in our guide!