Tis the season for college recruiting and the requisite career fairs. Are you ready? If not, let me share my tips and strategies on how to effectively network at these events and increase your chances of landing an internship or job. Networking is a necessary part of the job search, and the primary way that people obtain jobs, but it's something that most college students dread. Networking isn't easy and it doesn't come naturally for most people. But, as with many things in life, it is a skill that can be developed and perfected with practice. Essentially, the more you do it, the more at ease you will feel.
Here are a dozen tips to ensure your career fair success:
1. Have copies of your resume printed on quality resume paper which you can buy at any office supply store. Employers may or may not accept resumes but you should have them in case they do.
2. Keep your resumes in a portfolio (which you can also buy at an office supply store for under $15). These portfolios come equipped with a notepad, pen, calculator and pockets to store business cards.
3. Speaking of business cards, you may want to consider buying some of your own, particularly if you are a senior. You can get free business cards at www.vistaprint.com (there may be other companies too). Make sure to keep them conservative.
4. Dress in business attire (or business casual, depending on the type of career fair and the industry) and be well groomed. First impressions count.
5. Make a plan of which companies you want to talk to at the career fair so that you don't waste time. Some of the more popular companies may have long lines.
6. Do research about the companies you are interested in - at the very least read their website but you might also research them in online company databases, such as Hoovers. What you don't want to do is approach a recruiter and say, "So tell me, what does your company do?" You may say, however, something like, "I've heard a lot of good things about your rotational program. Can you tell me more about it?" The key word here is "more," implying you already know something about it. Or you can say, "What kind of skills/qualifications are you looking for in a candidate for your rotational program?"
7. If you're nervous about approaching employers, start with a company that you're not really interested in. That way you can test drive your networking skills and get the jitters out before you approach the recruiter at your dream company.
8. Approach each recruiter with a smile and a firm handshake, minus the sweaty palm. If you have a tendency toward sweaty palms, keep a tissue in your pocket and use it in between handshakes.
9. Introduce yourself and start off with some basic information about yourself such as your year in school, major, concentration, etc. Some people will then launch into their "30 second pitch," but the more natural approach is to let the other person say something about him/herself. Then you can go into your pitch, highlighting your experience, skills and accomplishments.
10. After speaking with each recruiter, thank them for their time and say something like, "It was a pleasure to meet you and discuss the internships available at your company." Make sure to get a business card!
11. After you walk away, go to a discreet part of the room and write notes about your conversation with the recruiter, which you will use in your thank you note.
12. Send a thank you note to each recruiter you spoke with and follow up on any promises you made. For example, if you mentioned you would send them your resume, make sure you do it. Do this even if you feel that you aren't interested in the company and/or the position. Why? Well, first of all, it's good business etiquette but, secondly, you never know when you might meet that recruiter again at another career fair or during an interview.
By applying these tips for career fair success, you'll be sure to make the most of this networking experience!