How to Survive (and Thrive) at College Career Fair!

This week is going to be busier than ever, because on Tuesday I will heading down to Oxford for Career Fair to help recruit for my company, and staying through the weekend for Homecoming! I can’t believe I will be in Oxford for almost a full week, and there are too many reasons for excitement than I can count. 
My first few days will obviously be mainly focused on Career Fair, coffee interviews, and a recruiting/networking dinner…but that doesn’t mean I won’t be spending every free moment with my friends and exploring campus again. While I’ve been getting prepared for the week, I’ve been reminiscing on my times at school that I was anxiously preparing for Career Fairs, interviews, and networking events…while also trying to balance everything else! 
I’m really looking forward to being able to experience everything from the side of an employed alumni – and after texting all of my nervous friends in school this week, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to share some tips and tricks for how to expertly navigate the event and secure interviews…and job offers!
1. Keeping Up Appearances
Obviously, there are guidelines when it comes to what to wear and what is considered appropriate for career-related events (more on that in another post!) I had professors harping on my classes for weeks about the Do’s and Don’ts of Career Fair attire…the one thing nobody warned me about is the heat. I can almost guarantee this is universal across all colleges…you will be in a massive room, packed with people chatting, shaking hands and moving around. You will sweat a lot (and not just because of nerves!) As nice as it feels to have your hair fully styled, I found myself wishing I could get it up and out of my face/off of my neck…which led to some seriously distracting hand-to-hair movements during conversations. Try a low, professional bun like this one – or another style that will be low maintenance so recruiters will focus on you!

2. Know Who You’re Talking To
It’s important to give your absolute best impression no matter who you speak to at a company’s booth…but your nerves are likely a bit misplaced! My attendance this year is a perfect example – while I plan on representing my company and showing people that it’s a great place to work, I’m not even affiliated with Campus Recruiting, HR, or Hiring! I’m simply a friendly face from the school that can relate to and represent what would be of interest to students. I have no say in who does or does not get a job…and really, we are trying to get people to like us just as much, if not more than the students! So take a deep breath, and realize that you’re here for information, to pass along your resume, and to get your name in front of the right people. Don’t be nervous!
3. How to Handle the Nerves
No matter how much experience (or lack thereof) you have with these events, it’s always hard to find your rhythm and get a confident vibe flowing through your system. You’ve prepared and practiced, but somehow as soon as you get to that first booth, you realize you have no idea where to start. Go to 1-2 booths that you aren’t truly interested in just to get your game face on. Then you won’t have to worry about striking out with a company you really want, and you’ll be ready! Think of it as the warm-up to the big game.
4. How to Stay Hands-Free
You might decide (or be advised) not to bring a purse..and that’s not bad advice. The room is cramped and crowded, and between holding your resume + portfolio, shaking hands, receiving business cards and trying to stay calm and confident, adding a heavy tote to your shoulder can only complicate things. What I didn’t prepare for the first time around was – with only my portfolio in hand, where was I supposed to put my keys and phone?! Have a plan in place for these essentials to keep them out of sight and in a safe place. I managed to find a way to slide them into a back pocket of my portfolio, but it was hardly a fool-proof solution!
5. Keep Your Options Open
Don’t rule anything out. While it’s great to have goals, dreams and plans…students aren’t always in a position to be picky. Essentially my only criteria when looking for internships was that I desperately wanted to come to Chicago…and I still forced myself to widen the net and explore opportunities in Cincinnati, Columbus, Michigan, Boston…and I was even surprised that some of the ones I was most interested in were cities I never would have considered otherwise! Plans are great, and backup plans are even better.  
6. Know Yourself
At the end of the day, you’re simply representing yourself and showing these people who you are…but more importantly, who you can be. Like I said earlier – they are trying to impress you as much (if not more) than you are trying to impress them! Smile, take a deep breath, and tell them why you would be an amazing, capable and competent candidate worthy of their time and efforts. Confidence is the main thing that they are looking for in every applicant, and the students who have it stand out a lot more than you think!
Good luck to everyone preparing for career fairs, internship expos, and interview season – it’s a stressful time, but it always works out in the end…I promise. You can never have too much practice with these events, and you never know what you’re going to find! Most importantly, try to have fun – there are obviously more exciting ways to spend your time, but taking steps towards your future can be exciting too!

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  • Reply
    September 12, 2016 at 5:15 am

    be interesting too! when i was interviewed for a job i always told them that i have a blog then they'd ask what do i blog…then the conversation started there. =)

    • Reply
      Olivia Tennant
      September 12, 2016 at 2:14 pm

      That's a great one too – I was always too shy to talk about that my first time around, but it was a great conversation starter for sure!

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