Handling the Career Fair Like a Pro
The Office of Cooperative Education and Career Services is a great resource for RIT students looking for jobs and career advice. Located in the Bausch and Lomb Center, the office has a simple mission: "to provide effective, high-quality services to RIT students and alumni, empowering and supporting them in the achievement of their experiential learning, career and employment goals." The office offers lots of helpful service and you should take some time to learn more about it. My favorite resource is the program coordinators. Almost every academic program at RIT has a full-time Career Services staff member to help students in that relevant field. If you don't know who your coordinator is, check here and go setup an appointment to meet him or her.
Yesterday I sat down with Michelle Magee, my program coordinator, and asked her for some tips for acing a career fair. This is what we came up with:
- Stay organized. Keep notes of companies that you are interested in. Manage your contacts and connections. Always have blank paper, a pen, and a couple copies of your resume on-hand when meeting with companies. Fire up Gmail or Yahoo Mail (or AOL if you're still doing that) and create some a "Jobs" label or folder. Make sure you keep track of what jobs you've applied to and jobs you're interested in. I use a Google Spreadsheet to store my job related information.
- Ensure you have a good resume. Be sure your resume is up to date and make sure it has been reviewed. It's a good idea to have your coordinator look it over and then someone in your field should give it a once-over too, maybe a professor.
- Properly prepare for the fair. Michelle suggested that prep work is just as important as attendance at the fair. Do your homework and research the companies that you are interested in. Asking "What do you do?" to a recruiter of a company that you're looking into is not a good idea and will make a bad impression. Make a list of your top companies and seek them out towards the start of the fair. Career Services posts a floor plan of the fair a few days in advance and it's smart to map out where you want to go before career fair day comes.
- Attend interest sessions. Keep an eye out for interest sessions, networking events, and meet-and-greets. During the week surrounding the career fair there such events in which the company's representatives will be available to talk on a more personal basis. These are great to attend as you can talk in a less stressful environment and get more personalized time with the company you're interested in.
- Don't wait in long lines. In addition to possibly making you more tense, waiting in long lines cuts down on the number of companies that you might be able to see on career fair day. Attend interest sessions if you can to cut down on waiting.
- Ask for a card. Don't be afraid to ask for contact information. If you do get it, remember to keep all correspondence formal and profession.
- Take notes. After meeting with a company's recruiters jot down some notes. Who did you talk to? When are they hiring? Was there a specific job title or number? What do you need to do to follow up with your talk? These are all good questions and a good set of notes will help you stay organized.
- Handle rejection. Getting a job isn't as seamless as shooting off a few resumes. It's going to take a little work and there may be a little rejection. It's okay, don't worry about it. Keep your head up and keep going. While I'm on the point, be aware that the classic "Apply Online" isn't a rejection; it's a simple directive. Recruiters aren't dismissing you, they are just simply asking you to use the company's system for handling hiring.
- Follow up. If you can, follow up with the person or people that you talked too. A nice handwritten card is a great idea and a kind email is a very close second. Remember to make use of LinkedIn!
- Get connected with the Office of Cooperative Education and Career Services. Connect with the Office of Cooperative Education and Career Services; you'll get a constant stream of solid advice and guidance.
Good luck at your next career fair and remember that the Office of Cooperative Education and Career Services is always there to help!