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What's the best way to prepare for a career fair?

It will be my first time attending a university career fair, so I am not too sure what to expect. I will definitely dress professionally, prepare my resume, and do research on the companies.

But, what kinds of questions should I be asking representatives from these companies? And is there any sort of strategy to getting the most out of a career fair (especially so because it is specific to the industry I want to build my career in)?

#networking #career #career-development

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Tina’s Answer

Hey Elsa!

One of the best things you can do is prepare your elevator pitch--a 30 second introduction that tells the professionals you speak with who you are, what you're passionate about, and how you see that passion playing out in your life. Let the elevator pitch be your gateway to networking with the companies you're interested in.

In terms of questions you can ask, some ideas include:
1. Asking them about their own careers at the company
2. Any advice they can share with you
3. Specific questions on interesting tid bits you picked up from the company websites (corporate responsibility initiatives, big ticket news items related to the company)
4. Any internship or leadership programs you can attend

And don't forget to follow up with folks you meet after the career fair! Get their business cards and send them thank you emails. Also reach out to grab coffee to continue the connection.

Best of luck!

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Gerard’s Answer

Your university career counseling department should have general tips. Over and above those, plan on the following:
1. Review the list of who will be attending and narrow your list to the top 5-10 organizations. Do research on each one so that you have a talking point when approaching them.
2. Do not plan on getting a job. Your primary objective is to make a connection with recruiters of the companies that you are interested in.
3. After you collect their business card, send out emails thanking them for their time and request suggestions for applying.

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Lili’s Answer

Hey Elsa! There are many ways to make this a meaningful experience.

Speaking from my own experience, the top three objectives of attending a career fair are:

  1. Getting deeper understanding about the company/job you are interested in. Of course “deeper” means information that you cannot already find online. For example, what are some regular tasks that people do at the company to fulfill their responsibilities? Crunching numbers? interviewing client? researching? drafting reports?
  2. Letting people get to know who you are, what you are interested in
  3. Learning about how to navigate the recruiting process with the company, and available opportunities

Lili recommends the following next steps:

Relax and have fun
Know which companies you are interested in, and at least read through their websites “about” section, and “career” section. Also you can find out more about how the employee feel about working at those companies by looking them up on Glassdoor.
Know what you want and why you want it, so you can communicate your goal clearly to employer. I know making career decision can be hard. Luckily there are many people sharing their experience and opinion about their careers online. My favorite site is Quora. I was once curious about career in big data. It took me less than a week to learn the ins and outs of that industry just by typing “big data career” in the search box and start reading high votes answers. You knowledge about the industry will give your more material to talk about at the career fair, and definitely help you stand out.
Prepare a elevate pitch, but don’t make it too mechanical. I believe if you have done step two, you should be able to have a really good and nature conversation with the employers.
After the career fair, connect the people you met by sending them a thank you note, or add them on LinkedIn. Including a short summary of what you discussed about and what you are interested in to remind people.