Putting Your Best Foot Forward at Campus Job Fairs

Today's guest post is courtesy of William Reynolds.

You've worked hard for years earning your college degree. You've slaved away at your own projects and developed your technical knowledge base. Now you feel ready to play a vital role programming, troubleshooting or engineering for a high-profile company or organization — but have you prepared for the campus job fairs that might actually open those doors for you? If not, then study up on these tips for making the right impression.

Do your due diligence. Just as you would routinely perform the preliminary research needed for any important project, you should research the job fair in advance. Find out which companies will have representatives at the event, and then hit the corporate websites until you feel you have a grip on each entity's vision, mission, clientele and corporate culture — not to mention their specific technical needs and solutions. Walk into that situation confidently informed, and watch the reaction you get. You've just set yourself apart from all the other folks who have the tech smarts but not the job smarts.

Campus Job Fairs1

Learn what you can about the participating organizations in advance.

Be businesslike. Of course you'll want to project a certain warmth and approachability at the campus job fair, but that doesn't mean you can fall into familiarity. Professionalism is one of the qualities these reps watch for, so “fake it till you make it” — act like a professional if you want to become one. Wear appropriate attire for a business meeting, show proper respect to everyone there at all times, and keep your cell phone switched off (not just set to vibrate) until you can exit the area to check messages.

Bring documentation. Lugging multiple hardcopies of your resume around may seem totally 20th Century, but in the busy environment of a campus job fair paper still rules as the preferred means of document exchange. (Of course you'll want to double-check that resume for accuracy and correct formatting beforehand.) Some technical positions may call for additional documentation as well, such as certifications in specific software platforms or programming languages. Prepare to take information as well as receive, whether you record it on a legal pad or a tablet. But don't spend so much time taking notes that you fail to express your interest through eye contact and body language.
Don't forget to take notesDon't forget to take notes!

Assert yourself. The technical world embraces more than its share of natural introverts, but while this quality may help you focus on your work, it won't do you any favors at a job fair. Even if it feels unnatural to you, make every effort to work the room, engage representatives at each booth at least once, and act like you're delighted to be there. Another item for your must-do list: Talk yourself up. Modesty is most definitely not a virtue in these situations, especially when your potential rivals at the event have no such compunction against selling their good points and glossing over their weaknesses. You must make a massively positive and vivid impression if you want the recruiters to remember you after speaking to roomfuls of candidates.

Keep coming at them. As the heavy hitters like to say, “The fortune is in the followup.” But the follow-up begins, not after the event, but at the event itself, when you remember to take each recruiter's business card. You need this information so you can send email notes thanking them for the opportunity to meet, attaching en electronic copy of your resume, volunteering to answer any additional questions, and generally keeping yourself at the top of their minds for when that great opportunity opens up.

Campus job fairs do not necessarily shower new careers on participating candidates right then and there, so don't fret if a miracle fails to happen on the spot. Instead, keep honing your applicant skills alongside your technical savvy, and rest assured that practice does indeed make perfect!

William Reynolds has worked as a freelance copywriter since 1997. William specializes in website content, ghost-blogging, print marketing content and audio/video scripts to help businesses with their online reputation management and promotional strategies.

(Images courtesy of digitalart and stockimages /FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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