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3 steps for students to conquer the career fair

So you've signed up for your first career fair, made finishing touches to your resume and bought a new pair of dress shoes. Do you feel ready?

If you're nervous, that's a good thing! Being nervous means you care and making the connections to land your first job or internship is something you should care about. However, to help diffuse those jitters, here are three steps you can take to make the most of your career fair experience!

Have a plan.

When you first walk in, it can be overwhelming how many employers are ready to meet you. Identifying your top employers beforehand will help you navigate through the multitude of booths and ensure that you maximize your time to make the right connections.

It's important to do a little research about each organization, but you don’t need to commit each “About Us” webpage to memory. At a minimum, you should know the industry of the booth you're standing at. If you tell me you're a great fit for the company but you don't know if I'm a manufacturer, hospital or bank, should I believe you?

Your school should provide a list of all the organizations attending and what majors they are considering. Try to target those employers for your research. Remember, quality connections are superior to a large quantity of connections!

Have a pitch.

Introducing yourself at a career fair is quite different than introducing yourself in a casual setting. Recruiters are ready to meet you, learn about your background and immediately decide if they should consider you for a role. Your opening pitch should be strong and to the point!

Practice your opening lines before you attend the fair. Be prepared to share your name, grade level, and major right off the bat. Then, share more detail about what positions you're looking for and why you're interested in their company. You can even highlight some of your work or volunteer experience that has helped hone your skills and qualifications.

To avoid an abrupt ending or awkward pause after your pitch, practice a smooth hand off to give to the recruiter. Asking a question about their openings is the best way to let them know you've shared your information and are ready to hear what they have to say. After putting it all together, your pitch should sound a little like this!

"Hi, my name is Abby Mandley and I am a sophomore at Oakland University. I am an accounting major and am looking to apply for accounting internships. I currently have an on-campus job, so an internship would be my first role related to my field of study. Do you have any openings that would be a fit for my qualifications?"

Have a presence.

Career fair success is built on nailing first impressions. So now that you have your pitch down, it's important to remember that your first impression will be largely based on your nonverbal communication – not what you say.

Be sure to stand tall, shake hands firmly and speak clearly. When the recruiter is speaking, make sure to maintain comfortable eye contact and listen closely. The more engaged you seem, the better! So be sure to smile often, ask great questions and leave them with a positive image of you.
Your presence can also be affected by how comfortable you are. Make sure to wear something that you feel confident in – and can walk confidently in!

So, after you check if you have your phone, wallet, and keys, make sure you also have a plan, a pitch and a presence. Employers are looking forward to meeting you and want to see you at your best!

Good luck out there!


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