Virtually all colleges and universities alike come equipped with a career services center. The biggest mistake students make in their academic career is waiting until the semester they graduate to prepare for their professional career. Career services offer an abundance of different resources to make you successful post-graduation.
Think of it this way-their job (the people who work at career services) is to get you a job! They should be your best friend! Make it a habit to visit your career counselor at least once every 6 weeks. You should develop a new professional skill every six weeks anyway so during your appointment review the progress you are making as well as any new issues or concerns you have about post-graduation.
Everyone should take advantage of the resources available at their career center. By everyone, I mean everyone: underclassmen, upperclassmen, graduate students and everything in between.
The crowning jewel of career centers across the country is the career fair! Career fairs are an excellent networking opportunity FOR ALL STUDENTS (underclassmen, I’m talking about you)! There are a lot of students (especially underclassmen) who do not go because they do not know what they are doing or do not think anyone wants to talk to them. This is a grave mistake.
Freshmen should go to career fairs.
Sophomores should go to career fairs.
Juniors should go to career fairs.
Seniors should go to career fairs.
Every student should go to career fairs.
With that being said, I understand the hesitation. Career fairs are basically structured networking events and behavior at a networking event does not come naturally to some people. There is a learning curve and I understand that. Fortunately for you, you can overcome that learning curve by following these tips and tricks!
Do your research!
Go to your school’s website and figure out what companies are going to be there. Then take some time learning about that company. You do not have to become an expert in XYZ Company, but it is important to learn the basics: what the company does, the company’s values, the company’s motto/vision and the company’s products/services.
Fortunately, you do not have to memorize all this information! You can take your notes with you. Invest in a nice padded portfolio and a good pen. Take your notes with you and prepare questions to ask the recruiters beforehand. That way when your approach recruiters, you will be informed and prepared.
ATTENTION UNDERCLASSMEN: Companies hire FRESHMEN and SOPHOMORES for internships. (Yes, seriously they do. I know because I got one my freshman year and I’ve seen other people do it too.) There is still hope for you. Plus this is a perfect opportunity to hear straight from recruiters the type of skills and experience you need to be successful.
For example, if you are a freshman and a recruiter tells you that you need to be really good at Java in order to be competitive, you have a heads up! That way you can take more Java electives. You have time more time on your side and that’s not something juniors and seniors can capitalize on. If you need more help when it comes to finding internships, make an appointment with me.
Practice your 30-Second Me!
A 30-Second Me is a basic introduction of yourself. No, it does not have to be exactly 30 seconds but it should NEVER be longer. (You will look like you are rambling and people will tune you out.) A 30-Second Me is great because it is a safe and easy way to start a conversation. As you get more comfortable with attending career fairs, you will be able to start conversations without one.
There are many different methods for creating a 30-Second Me, but I like to keep it simple: Name, Field of Study, Tailored Experiences, and a Segway. Let me break it down:
Name: Your name
Field of study: Major or intended major
Tailored Experiences: Your experiences that correlate with what recruiters are looking for
Segway: Using your research to ask the recruiter about the company
For example, let’s say a sophomore studying finance attends a career fair and approaches a recruiter from a big bank. A good 30-Second Me would look like this:
Hi, my name is Angel Rodriguez. I am currently studying Finance. I am the treasurer of the Finance Association as well as the recipient of the Academic Excellence Scholarship. In my research, I learned that your company is looking for high performers. What are the skills or experiences you would consider high performance?
This is the break down of that 30-Second Me:
Hi, my name is Angel Rodriguez. I am currently studying Finance. I am the treasurer of the Finance Association as well as the recipient of the Academic Excellence Scholarship. (This is where you include specific experiences that are relevant to what the company is looking for. It’s a bank so they may be interested to know you are actively involved in an organization about their industry. They are also looking for high performers so including that you were recognized for your academic performance helps too.) In my research (this is the Segway! You incorporate the research you did on your own to ask a question to the recruiter. This turns the conversation back to them.) I learned that your company is looking for high performers. What are the skills or experiences you would consider high performance?
Look your best!
This does not mean go out there and spend money that you do not have! The most important thing is that you look nice and neat. If you are buying a suit, make sure it fits well. To be on the safe side, dress conservatively, but it does not have to be black. Gray or navy blue is fine as well.
Despite any rumors you may have heard, WEARING HEELS IS NOT REQUIRED! You will not be secretly judged for not wearing heels. If you do wear heels make sure you can walk in them confidently and can last all day. If you wobble around at the career fair, you will be judged (and it will not be a secret). Also, if you insist on wearing heels, keep them at kitten heels or shorter.
Secondly, keep the perfume and cologne at home! Consider the recruiter. They are going to be bombarded by people all day. The last thing you want is to be remembered as the person who gave the recruiter a headache just by the way you smelled. Your smell will carry a negative connotation. If you take a shower and wear deodorant you will smell just fine.
Lastly, check your breath! You do not want to offend any potential recruiter with your breath. Ask 2 good friends to give you honest feedback about your breath. If you have any concerns, chew a couple of breath mints before you start your conversation. (Not gum, breath mints).
If you tell yourself you do not belong at the career fair, then it will show. If you do not believe you are good enough to hire, then no one will hire you. It is incredibly important to believe in your skills, experience, and qualifications. If you are still nervous about the who prospect of career fair then schedule a meeting with your career counselor. They can help you work through your nerves.
If you still believe you need more help, I’m always available! Make an appointment with me today!