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Impress for success: how to conquer the career fair

Illustration by Julia Corbett

By Julia Ireland

Every student has a “first” career fair. Feelings of nervousness, excitement and apprehension are common. As the College’s Fall Opportunities Fair approaches — the event is scheduled for this Friday, Sept. 30 — it is important for students to prepare themselves on what to expect and how to make a lasting impression.

“It gets overwhelming, but it’s important to take the risk and start,” said Debra Kelly, interim director at the Career Center. “It’s an opportunity in one place where students can visit a variety of employers from corporate and non-profit to government and graduate schools.”

The fair runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 30 in the Recreation Center. The Career Center website recommends a few helpful tips on how to approach the event:

1. Do your homework and be prepared! Look up the attending employers and job opportunities before the event to save time and feel less overwhelmed. Make a list of questions you have about each company. “I like when someone takes the time to research the company and Google the last two articles written about them,” Kelly said. “Instead of saying, ‘Tell me about the position…’ say, ‘I noticed you posted…’” Employers will be impressed by your knowledge!

2. Bring several updated copies of your résumé in a briefcase or portfolio. Check the Career Center website for open hours of résumé review by professionals. It is also important to bring a pen or pencil and a notebook to take notes at the event.

3. Dress to impress! Men should wear a neatly pressed, comfortable suit, dress shirt, tie (darker than the shirt and in either a solid color or small pattern), dark socks, and shined shoes and belt in the same color. Women should wear a conservative business dress suit and avoid open-toe shoes and heels larger than two inches. Wear natural make-up and minimal jewelry, and from undershirt to nail polish, choose muted colors.

4. Arrive early and prioritize the employers you’re most interested in. This tip will help you maximize your time and help you beat the crowd.

5. Maintain steady eye contact when talking to employers to let them know you are listening and interested in the job.

6. Start and finish with a firm handshake and remember to say thank you after each conversation.

7. Ask for a business card and follow up with thank you notes a few days after the event to show your interest in the position and leave a lasting impression in the employers’ minds. “Most people come to expand their network,” Kelly said, because opportunities may arise with these companies down the road.

The Fall Opportunities Fair is the perfect venue for students to begin their job search for post-graduation. “Most companies will make their projections much earlier and look for December and May graduates in the fall to start training programs,” Kelly said. On average, she said, the hiring process takes three to six months, and there are typically several interviews before a student is hired. The fair serves as an introduction between students and employers to start this process.


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