Amidst the frenzy of settling back into campus life, one thing college students often overlook is the preparation for an on-campus job fair and the recruiter sessions that begin as early as September. While it might be hard for a student to think about a job or internship for NEXT summer already, they need to schedule a visit to career services early in the fall semester.
When school begins, most students are focused on their new courses, roommates and activities. Some think that if you want an internship for the summer or job after graduation, you can start searching in January. However, many schools have a big job fair in early September or October. Large companies also invest a great effort to recruit early in the year to have their spots set by February for next summer.
What College Students Need to Do RIGHT NOW to Prepare for a Campus Job Fair
1. Start early.
On-campus recruiting starts much earlier than you may think. Go online to your career services website NOW! Create an advantage for yourself by blocking your calendar for these important dates before your schedule gets busy. College students who want summer internships should attend all career fairs… even if they are a freshman. This is really good experience to get exposure with companies and learn what their expectations are for candidates.
It’s easy to get distracted and miss the dates of a job fair with new classes and activities. Now is the time to start looking at job postings to see what internships are available.
[More about how to graduate in four years and why a visit to career services as a freshman will help here.]
It doesn’t have to be overwhelming to attend a campus job fair. A little preparation and planning will go a long way. Search the employers attending ahead of time. Pick five-ten that you are really interested in and visit their tables or attend their information sessions.
Visit career services early to meet with a counselor and become familiar with their resources. Many schools have a recommended resume template. This is a good place to see what help is available and refine your resume.
When attending a career fair, print many copies of an updated resume and have a business card to hand out as well. Bring a portfolio to hold your resume, paper and pen. Keep your phone out of site.
Have business attire with you at school – suit, tie, dress shoes for guys, suit, or conservative dress for ladies.
3. So what do you say?
I recently had a student who was trying to get an internship for the upcoming summer and was baffled why it was so hard. I asked him if he went to the campus job fair and he said “No.” He was overwhelmed at the thought of 15-20 students swarmed around certain employers and he did not know what to say to stand out or compete against his peers. Don’t sweat it at these events. This is for you to learn about companies and what might interest you. This is also a chance to network and make some contacts.
Here the best way to start…introduce yourself, make eye contact, smile and offer a firm handshake. Tell them your name, what you are studying and what you are looking to pursue. Share one thing why you are interested in this company and why your skills may be a good fit. It’s that simple. Practice saying this out loud with a friend so it’s something you have rehearsed– this becomes your elevator pitch.
4. Follow up.
Make sure to request a business card, and always send a thank you note to anyone you meet and request to speak further. Connect with everyone you meet on LinkedIn. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile yet, now is the time to get started and here’s where you can learn more.
5. Save the date.
Go to these events! The goal is not to wait, start now. Do you know when the career fair is at your kid’s college?
Beth Hendler-Grunt, founder of Next Great Step, has extensive experience consulting from start-ups to the Fortune 500s firms. She is leveraging and scaling her corporate expertise by bringing that experience to college students to help them succeed when they graduate. This is based on a clear understanding of the career development process and the requirements needed to succeed in today’s competitive environment. Next Great Step has facilitated student strategy and development sessions for recent graduates and current students at leading universities as well as one-on-one consultations. Find out more about Next Great Steps on Facebook, or connect with Beth at LinkedIn, and Twitter.