Career Fair Do’s and Don’ts

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Amariya Manley and Kennis Ko, Braven Fellows at San José State UniversityIt’s career fair season on our campuses, so we caught up with Braven Fellows, Amariya Manley and Kennis Ko, at San José State University to get some advice for our #BravenNation. Here’s what they had to say:

1.  Have your  elevator pitch ready to go

You will definitely get the “Tell me about yourself” prompt when interacting with potential employers, so you need to be ready.  Your elevator pitch is a 1-minute speech with the purpose of telling the interviewer or the company’s representative about yourself, highlighting the best parts of your story.

When you go through the Braven Accelerator class, you actually get hands-on tools that help you craft your pitch. First, you’ll want to make clear who you are and what you want to do. Then you’ll want to relate your skills to the position and share your relevant experience. Next, you want to include a specific ask, such as specific questions about this profession. Lastly, you’ll want to close with a thank-you, next steps, and express your passion and interest in the career field the person you’re talking to is in.

Through Braven’s resources, we drafted a sample paragraph and continued to improve it just like our resume. You can do the same. Start using it as a base in networking events. This polished but natural elevator pitch will help you build connections with professionals. Hopefully, after hearing it, they will have a better understanding of what you have to offer.

2.  Update your resume

Of course, after introducing yourself with the elevator pitch, you’ll need a strong resume. There are certain things that we do to keep our resumes in shape. First, we share our resumes and get feedback from different professionals. Also, if we know the position we want, we tailor the resume to the job description. Once in awhile, we look at our own resumes and pretend to be the hiring manager. You should do the same. Ask yourself:

  • At first glance, am I able to get a good picture of the candidate?
  • Is the format clear and simple?
  • Do their talents jump off the page?
  • Are there any unnecessary details?

3.  Prepare to connect and network after the fair

At a career fair, you don’t want to end a conversation abruptly, but you also want to maximize your ability to network as much as possible. You’ll need to make a good last impression.

After it seems like the conversation is closing, ask for their contact information and business card. You should also have your LinkedIn app ready to go, so you can add them as a connection. Thank them for taking the time and make sure that you have a plan for how you’ll follow up.

The next morning, we send out a thank you note (which we drafted in advance) for their time and advice. Even if you don’t get the job, staying in touch pays off. We can tell you from personal experience — I followed up after an interview and still wasn’t selected. Even though I wasn’t selected for that opportunity, I showed that I understood their decision and still wanted to be considered for future opportunities.

The hiring manager referred me to another manager who offered to hop on the phone and I received a very personal 1-hour conversation where I learned more about their organization. I now feel like I not only have a connection with someone in the company, but I can better tailor my pitch next time.

4.  Dress for the Job

Always dress one level up if you know the expectations. For a career fair, you likely want to go with business professional. It never hurts to look like you could start working there at a moment’s notice.

Here are a few key additional tips from Amariya and Kennis:

  • Go in with a specific strategy because you don’t want to end up wasting valuable time.
  • If the fair has a list of companies that will be present, research each company in advance so that you’ll have certain questions and topics prepared when you arrive at their booth.
  • Don’t just walk to a recruiter and drop off your resume — have a meaningful conversation and network. You never know what positions are open or who they can connect you with.
  • Don’t be afraid to get out there and start to network. At my first career fair, I was shy and didn’t know how to approach any of the recruiter tables. I took a step back and thought to myself, “You have what it takes to do this, get out there and do your best”.

As always, stay positive. You are talented and have a lot to offer. You can do this!

Amariya Manley is a senior majoring in Business Finance and Kennis Ko is a graduate student majoring in Chemical Engineering at San José State University. Both were Spring 2017 Braven Fellows.