DePaul University Career Center's Blog

Career Fair Anxiety

By: Skai Stundziaite, DePaul University graphic design major ’17

The dreaded question so many employers asked me at a recent career fair? Read on, my friends.

I recently attended a career fair where I was asked to speak to a handful of employers about what they’re looking for in candidates, and how students could be more prepared for job and internship fairs. The advice I received was very useful, such as bringing an updated resume, being approachable and having a firm handshake. But I found myself lacking the ability to answer the question I was asked the most, “Tell me a little about yourself.” When questioned, I would often freeze up and shrug my shoulders. “I don’t know, I’m a graphic design student,” would be all that I’d manage to mumble out.

After the fair, I didn’t feel very confident in myself. I knew I had good experiences and skills that I could share with potential employers, but I just wasn’t prepared to think on the spot and didn’t know the right things to say.

After discussing my experience at the fair with my supervisor, I was recommended to meet with – the now former – Computing and Digital Media Career Specialist Sarah Highstone. At first, I didn’t think that a career specialist would be able to help me craft a pitch, but I was wrong. During my meeting with Sarah, I told her about my situation and asked for her advice on how I could potentially prevent this from happening again, and she was more than happy to help.

The first thing Sarah told me was that employers aren’t really looking for the perfect worker at these events, instead they’re looking for a good student. Sarah informed me that the majority of the positions offered at fairs are entry-level positions, so the companies are mostly looking for someone who they’d enjoy working with and teaching, and someone who ‘fits’ the personality of the rest of the team. They’re looking to see if you’re organized and easy to talk to. In a situation like a fair, I was told that making a really personal interaction with the company will leave a bigger, more resonating impression than a well-developed and formatted pitch and resume, even though those are pretty important.

Sarah was quick to tell me that there is no formula for a perfect pitch. Instead, she told me that it’s important to cover the essentials when talking about yourself; who, what, when, where, why and how. Sarah recommended that at the next fair I have three main points on my mind about what I find most important to share with companies. For example, my major, my interests, internships and what off-campus activities I’m a part of. Sarah informed me that it’s important to understand what I’m looking for when entering a fair; it’s all about having a game plan ready, as that will prevent any unwanted questions from being asked.

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 2.59.37 PMWhen meeting with Sarah, I talked to her about a specific situation I came across while at the fair. I found myself speaking to an HR representative who asked me if I liked to animate. Regrettably, I didn’t think much about my answer and jumped straight to my gut reaction and said, “No, animation is hard.” When I saw the woman’s facial reaction, my stomach dropped and I immediately wanted to take back my response. She didn’t seem pleased with the way I approached the question and our conversation ended there. When Sarah heard about this encounter, she told me not to worry about what happened and to take this as a learning experience. Sarah said that next time someone asks me about a topic that doesn’t interest me, let them know that it’s something I’m not interested in doing, and instead I should let them know what I would like to do. Since I have experience animating, instead of just saying flat out no, I should have said, “I do have experience working with animation, but I would prefer to do work centered more around (insert whatever).”

After my meeting with Sarah, I felt more aware of useful ways to present myself to potential employers. This meeting with her helped me gather my thoughts and build confidence for the next fair.

UPDATE: Luckily, I had the ability to practice all the new tools I’ve learned at another fair! When entering the fair, I already felt a huge difference because I felt prepared to conquer any questions that might get asked of me; I was prepared to guide conversations and not get caught up in them. Meeting with my career advisor really helped me in my development as a student and will eventually help me acquire my dream job. I finally received a chance to ask all the questions that have been lingering on my mind about my career and I’m looking forward to meeting with her again soon!

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