By: Ellen Barrett, DePaul University women’s and gender studies major ‘17 and peer career advisor
Networking is about finding connections in every corner, and using any opportunity to make the most of those connections. It’s not about walking into a job fair and feeling as if you’re forcing yourself upon employers; networking should feel like a natural process, one in which your curiosity and genuine interests are your best traits. Job fairs are the perfect way to make connections. You may not get the job you want right away, but that’s not the only reason why job fairs are so important.
Remember you are worth their time
Recruiters are at the job fair because they want to talk to you. They know you are a student and don’t expect you to have much professional experience. No matter how inexperienced you may feel, though, you do belong there. Remember, a major reason job fairs are important is because the employers you meet are capable of providing you with invaluable connections.
If you are only going to the fair because you want a specific job being advertised with one company, then you’ll automatically have a major advantage by meeting the employer face-to-face compared to your competition who is sitting at home filling out the same job application. I always recommend students to visit the job fair even if they’re not looking for a job at that moment because you never know whom you’ll meet or what conversations you’ll have.
Creativity engages your audience
Are you a storyteller? Telling a quick story about a positive, related experience you’ve had at work or school is a great tactic for networking, as it shows that you’re able to recognize your skills and accomplishments. For example, “As a communications intern last spring, I developed a marketing strategy that increased our social media following by 200%, which is why I am now interested in pursuing business marketing and learning more about your team’s current projects.” If you don’t have any internship or work experience, you can talk about class projects or coursework instead.
Set small goals to overcome anxiety
Psychologists will tell you that avoidance of a fear only increases anxiety, and this is also true in the case of job fairs. You can begin to overcome your fear of fairs by setting small goals for yourself. Make a goal to meet with 2-3 companies, for example. Know that you should always have some background knowledge about the company before you walk up to their table.
The dreaded elevator pitch
Keep it simple. The employer should know who you are, but also what you are looking to learn from them. Introduce yourself with your name, the degree you are pursuing, and explain why you are interested in their company. You don’t need to go into extensive detail about everything you’ve done and hope to accomplish, but if you’re genuinely enthusiastic about the company, it should show.
Workshop your way to confidence
Use DePaul resources to prepare for the fair. Check out Handshake for upcoming Career Center events, including the workshop, “Maximize Your Job and Internship Fair Experience,” which is usually held the same week as all job and internship fairs and designed to teach you the skills to make you confident when approaching employers.
The final touch
Ask for the recruiter’s business card and send a follow-up thank you email. Reflect on the conversation you had and what stood out to you. Thank them for their time, and show your enthusiasm about their company by mentioning one part of the conversation you found particularly interesting or exciting. An example might be, “I really enjoyed learning about your strategies for creating engaging social media initiatives, as this is a skill I’ve been interested in developing since my experience as a communications intern last spring.” This is a best practice for introverts and extroverts alike.
Meet with a career advisor today, and learn ways to overcome job fair anxiety and gain the confidence you need to have meaningful conversations at your next career event.