How to approach your first career fair

Career fairs can be very intimidating, especially when you are like me and have absolutely no idea what you are doing. This semester, I attended the CJC Career Fair for the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida. With the help of some family members and my mentor, I was able to walk into the event feeling fully prepared and confident. It was definitely intimidating, being that it was my first career fair, but I ended up learning a lot. Every college is a little different. At UF there are two school wide career fairs and then some of the colleges within the university have their own career fairs too. The next schoolwide career fair at UF will be held in the spring semester. Here are a few tips to make sure you are prepared!

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE CAREER CENTER AT YOUR SCHOOL

The University of Florida has a fantastic Career Connections Center (CCC) that has many different resources for students. If you don’t know how to write a cover letter or need someone to check over your resume, they have walk-ins or you can schedule an appointment. The CCC can also help you prepare for interviews which is super important for the career fair because many open tables do on the spot interviews. However, there is an option for you to pre-register for interviews so you can prepare more.

If you are more of a do-it-yourself person, you can pick up some templates to use as a guide for how your cover letter or resume should look.

Many universities have similar programs like the CCC, so go onto your university’s website to find more information about yours!

HAVE A PLAN

There were a ton of different tables set up with a company at each one. In order to make sure you are fully prepared for the event, try to find out ahead of time the names of the companies that will be there, as well as, where they will be seated. I suggest making a list of the companies and their locations so you can easily move from table to table that day.

 If you can’t find a list of the companies on your university’s website, then try contacting the person in charge of running the career fair to see if they can lead you to the right place.

While you are making the list of companies you want to introduce yourself to, add a little bit of information about each company to the list. That way you can refer back to it right before you meet them to refresh your memory. It would be smart to look through the websites of each company too so you can learn more about their mission and values.

SHOW WHO YOU ARE

Don’t be afraid to go overboard with preparing your portfolios. You are showcasing who you are to these companies, so give more than just a resume. Make sure when you leave that table they know exactly who you are! In my folders, I made sure to include my resume, cover letter, writing samples, and a few other pieces that I felt showcased some of my best work. Every person I talked to that day was very impressed by all of the samples I had ready to provide for them.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that first impressions are everything. When you are showing who you are, you want to dress for success. You might look great on paper, but if you show up looking sloppy, then that could be enough for them to no longer consider you.

NAIL THE INTERVIEW

If you have a pre-scheduled interview, be sure to get there 15 minutes in advance. Every company doing pre-scheduled interviews is on a tight schedule, so if one interview ends a little earlier than planned, you don’t want them to be waiting around for you to show up.

For those that have never done an interview for a job or internship and are feeling nervous, I suggest stopping by a table that you are interested in, but it’s not one of your top choices, first. This way there isn’t as much pressure as you talk to them and it helps you get rid of the nervous jitters you walked in with. This will also be great practice for you, so you have a clearer idea of what you can expect to see at the other tables you care a little bit more about.

POST INTERVIEW

After each interview, jot down a few key things you and your interviewer talked about so you can make your thank you emails more personable. If you talked about something super specific or had a similar interest with the interviewer, include that in the follow up email. They probably talked to a lot of people that day, so the more personable it is, the more likely they will remember you. Always ask for their business card so you can have their name and contact information; it’ll make the follow up process much easier.

YOU’VE GOT THIS

I really hope these tips are as useful to you as they were for me. Keep in mind, if you are a freshman or sophomore not looking for a job or internship quite yet, you can still go to the career fair and practice introducing yourself to companies. That way it’ll be easier to do during the years when it matters the most!

 

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