Career Fairs: Preparing for the Craziness

It’s that time of the year. The weather is still nice, classes are manageable, and Smeal is overrun by students wearing business formal and company stands taking over the ground floor sitting area. Welcome to recruiting season, everyone!

Now, if you are reading this post I am assuming you are a little curious about the mysteries of career fairs. Maybe a little nervous too (it’s okay, we’ve all been through it). So, I hope my (limited, but relevant) advice can assist you in getting ready for the big scary Fall Career Days (and any other career fairs you will attend in the future). Here are the five things you should consider before speaking with recruiters:

  1. DO YOUR RESEARCH. There is a reason why this is #1 on the list and it’s all in caps. Penn State and Smeal offer a number of different resources where you can research companies attending career fairs. An hour or two that you spend looking at these firms can tell you a lot – if positions available are those you are interested in; which office locations are hiring; what the culture is like; what they expect from an employee… the list goes on and on. Doing research will also save you valuable time during the career fair. After all you don’t want to spend an hour in line waiting to speak with a recruiter, only to find out they do not offer what you are looking for.
  2. Practice Your Elevator Pitch. Practice makes it perfect, there is no way around it. Some say the elevator pitch is the most important process in career fairs, and your way in to an interview. Knowing your resume is key, but it is also important for you to know yourself. What are the strengths you want to point out? What do you believe recruiters must find out about your personality? Keep those in mind when you are practicing the pitch to friends, teachers, or your dog. Also, an insider tip – once you get to the career fair, go speak with the firms you have least interest in. The fair can be scary, and a little real-time “practice session” can go a long way when you finally go speak to the company of your dreams.
  3. Dress to Impress. I am no fashion specialist, but this point is very important. Make sure to search what “business formal” means, and stick to those rules. Boys, press those shirts and find somebody who can actually tie your ties if you are struggling. Girls, watch the length of those skirts and dresses – you don’t want to stand out for the wrong reasons.
  4. Plan the Hours Out. Get ready, set, go! This is how I feel about career fairs once I arrive to their venues. I drop my backpack, put my heels on, and try to jump right in. Well, let me tell you, it’s a jungle out there. When you have a 2-4 hour break to go meet recruiters, you have to plan your time very carefully. Look up where the companies you are interested in are standing, write down who is close to whom and notice if there huge crowds roaming by. Leave time to take notes in between conversations. All in all, be prepared to spend quite some time in line and manage your expectations so that you can speak with all those you are interested in.
  5. Relax, You Can Do This. Easy to say, not as easy to follow. But hey, if you are reading this, you are better off than much of your competition! This last advice is key to a successful time at the career fair. Take a deep breath, drink some water. Career fairs are certainly overwhelming, however one of the most important things is to always have faith in yourself. Good luck, you can do this!
By Isadora Fraga
Isadora Fraga