During my time in college, I never attended career fairs. I found them unappealing. As someone interested in advertising and communications, all the financial services, IT, and engineering companies turned me off. I was never sure exactly what I wanted to do after college, but I knew I didn’t want to be part of a management training program at some huge company. So I thought to myself, why should I even attend the career fairs?
Now, as the marketer for Career Services at Syracuse University, I’ve seen career fairs up-close and personal, and my perspective has changed a bit. I’ve decided that even if you have little interest in the positions companies are recruiting for, you can still benefit from attending the events. Here are just a couple of ways:
Many companies attend a university’s career fair looking to fill specific positions. For instance, an organization may have a management training program for which they need to bring in 40 new grads each year.
The secret is that even if you are not interested in these particular positions, you can still talk to the recruiter! Who knows when an opportunity will spring up at that company in another area? If you’re able to forge a relationship with the recruiter and keep in contact via e-mail after the fair, you may be in the loop when a new job is posted in your area of interest!
Network with career services professionals at the fair, also. We’re happy to talk with you, listen to your thoughts about the event, and learn more about your career aspirations. We’re people, too, so there may be individuals in our own circle – friends, family members, former colleagues – who you may benefit from connecting with.
Don’t discount networking with your peers, either. If you’re at the career fair, you all have pretty similar goals – to obtain some sort of internship or job- so pool your resources. As you stand in long lines and prepare for your conversations with employers, chat with the other students to see what’s working for them and what’s not. Let them know the type of position you’re looking for, as they may have contacts or suggestions for you.
Career fairs provide you with an opportunity to practice presenting yourself in a professional manner. If you’re like most college students, you don’t have too many occasions to dress up in a suit and talk with business professionals about yourself, your accomplishments, and your ambitions.
For many people, this can be awkward at first. It’s a necessary part of the job search, though. Whether you’re applying for a finance internship at a huge conglomerate or a copywriter position at a hometown ad agency, you will need to be comfortable conversing intelligently with others and articulating your value as a young professional.
Even if you have little interest in the positions being recruited for, you can practice your self-presentation skills at the career fair. In fact, you can make bolder choices and take more risks if you aren’t as invested. Experiment with a new way of introducing yourself, try giving employers a more creative format for your resume, or practice telling a story about a big project you’re working on.
Don’t be afraid to fumble up a bit. Get the nervousness out of your system, so you can be confident when it comes time to interview for a position you really want. A career fair is an ideal way to practice being prepared, poised, and professional.
Next time you’re thinking about skipping the career fair on your campus, consider the ways in which you can benefit from attending. You stand to gain valuable networking contacts and serious practice for the rest of your job search process. For only an hour or so of your time, attending a career fair is a great investment in your future.
Dan Klamm is the Outreach & Marketing Coordinator for Syracuse University Career Services. In his position, he is responsible for student engagement with Career Services. This includes managing the marketing campaigns for events and programs, leading social media initiatives, and fostering relationships with people across campus to build awareness of the office. Connect with him on Twitter @DanKlamm.