Should I Attend the Career Fairs this Year?
You may be asking yourself the question “Should I attend the career fairs this year”? No matter your year in school, your major, or your employment status, the answer is a resounding YES! Below I’ll break down the why’s according to who you are.
Freshman – While you may be thinking you’re not ready or that no one will be interested in hiring you for internships or jobs, it’s never too early to start networking. Several companies actually track the number of interactions that a candidate has with their business over the course of your time in college. So, if you talk to your dream company every chance you can and your name is one the recruiter thinks of when they are looking for motivated individuals, you then have created yourself a leg up on the competition. Build your network from day one. Even if you’re still trying to figure out exactly what you want to do with your degree. You’re early enough in that it’s ok to admit you’re still exploring your options and eager to learn more about what options are out there for you. The more conversations you have, the more you’ll learn about how you can translate your degree skills into a career.
Sophomores – Believe it or not, you really should aim to have two professional internships on your resume before you graduate. If you’re someone who doesn’t work during the school year then you’re looking at the summer between sophomore and junior year and the summer between junior and senior year. As I mentioned above, recruiting for these roles starts early. In order to be a competitive candidate, you have to start your process early. Make sure you have a strong resume and have prepared what you plan to say. Ask smart questions of the recruiters to learn more about what kind of opportunities each business has to offer. If they tell you they only hire juniors, don’t be discouraged and walk away. Let them know you’re eager to connect on LinkedIn and hope to catch up with them next year when you have even more to offer. Again, building your contacts and network is everything at this stage.
Juniors – The career fairs were basically designed for you, so you will easily be the most popular person at the party hands down. Employers are looking to hire interns who have one more year of school so that they can “test drive” them as an employee in order to make an informed hiring decision. They want you to do an internship and if you’re good, come back and work for them full time. This also give you an opportunity to test drive a career and an organization before committing for the long haul. You don’t want to just take any internship because if you already know it’s not somewhere you want to work, then why waste what valuable time you have left? As a Junior, you need to be extremely strategic about who you talk to and how you approach each company. Do your research diligently and make sure the recruiters know you’re well educated on what they do and have a genuine interest in being a part of their team. No one wants to feel like you just randomly applied or are only looking to fulfill your degree requirement. Make the employers feel special and build your network all at the same time.
Seniors – Whether your next move is a full-time job or graduate school, you earned your degree to get a job at some point right? You never know what a simple conversation at a career fair could lead to. Research companies of interest and find out who is hiring full time roles. Talk with the recruiters about your career-related interests and what you’re looking for in an organization. Be strategic and make sure the hiring managers know that you “get it” and want to be a part of their team. Ask smart questions about the company’s onboarding or mentoring program. Find out what clients they work with and do you best to stand out through a well-developed resume and strong pitch. Companies who come to the fair are specifically there to employ applicants straight out of college. Going to the career fairs will be the “easiest” place to start looking for a full-time job because we bring the employers to you. Once you graduate, you have to seek them out, which is a lot more time consuming.
First Year Graduate Students – You only have one summer to gain degree-related experience during your program. That means from the second you get started, you need to be building your network in your industry. Start researching organizations early and start pinpointing your top companies. Think about where you want to live and which business have multiple locations. Do you have other factors to consider such as a spouse or an extended program completion date? Don’t let those things sidetrack you from establishing connections. The more people you talk with, the better chance you have of securing a full-time job upon graduation. Build that network at any stage you can. Even if you don’t feel ready, you should still attend and speak with a select few employers to start networking.
Second Year Graduate Students – There are companies who specifically want graduate students who come to our fairs to recruit you. Find out who they are and talk with them. If you are interested in the private sector, you need to start searching early and be ready to attend career fairs in the fall. For most public and nonprofit organizations, you should be ready any time between fall and early spring. If you didn’t attend O’Neill for undergrad, have someone from the Career Hub review your application materials. Never attended a job fair before? Practice your pitch with a Career Consultant so they can give you feedback. As a second year graduate student, recruiters are expecting you to know exactly what you’re looking for; if you don’t, then you still have some work to do.
International Students – We are very aware that the current climate makes your job search more difficult than ever. In the states, many jobs are secured through networking; therefore, it is imperative that you start having career-related conversations with people in your industry from the moment you start school. If you’re looking for an internship, don’t focus only on companies who sponsor, You have your CPT to use before you graduate and some places may not be aware of the rules. Once you switch gears to looking for full time work, consider looking at companies who have a global presence. Consider starting at a location that’s not ideal if you know it could help you land where you want to eventually. Help the organizations understand the value you add rather than focusing on the barriers.
Future Employment/Internship Secured – This is where things get a little bit murky. We would never tell you to keep looking for jobs after you have accepted an internship or full-time job; however, in today’s current climate, it’s never a bad idea to keep your options open. You should still consider attending career fairs and info sessions to build your network. You never know how things can chance between now and the time you’re supposed to get started. If you put a hard stop on your search, you’ll feel like you’re starting over. If you casually continue networking and building connections all year round, then you can revisit those people and places you found interesting.