By Stephanie Martoccia
Last Friday, I attended the CCI Career Expo in Cleveland, and it was quite the experience. I met a lot of people, collected many business cards and learned a lot about what to do differently next time. It was an amazing experience, and I advise everyone to attend at least one career fair before seriously looking for internships.
Know what you want to get out of your experience
Before you step foot inside of a career expo, know what you want to get out of it. Are you attending to get an internship or job? When do you want the internship or job? Maybe you just want to network with professionals. Whatever your objective is, implement a strategy of how you plan to make that objective happen.
Show up on time.
Yes, I was late for the career fair. It was from 1-4 p.m. and I thought that three hours was too much time to speak to professionals. I took extra time doing my hair, stopped for coffee on my drive up and got off at the wrong highway exit. Oops! I soon learned that three hours was not nearly enough time to speak to all of the companies that I had wanted to speak with.
Don’t be nervous.
After arriving late, I walked into the room in which the career expo was held. I faced a whirlwind of emotions so I cannot imagine what my face looked like, but a very polite stranger told me that I looked terrified. After she mentioned that, I realized that my jaw was nearly touching the floor, and I was whispering to myself “Oh my goodness, what do I do?” After speaking to a few friends, I became more comfortable and realized that there is nothing to be scared of. These people were not vicious, they wanted to help build my professional career.
Wear comfortable shoes.
There will be a lot of aspiring professionals in comparison to company representatives which means waiting. Lots and lots of waiting in lines to speak with companies of your choice. That being said, wear shoes that you will be comfortable with standing in for the duration of the event.
Read about the company prior to speaking with its representatives.
While you are waiting in those long lines to speak to representatives, it is a great idea to read about what they do and what opportunities are available for jobs and internships. This information can sometimes be found in resources provided at the expo or simply searched on your smartphone. Reading about a company before you speak with them will show that you care about them. The conversation can also be more about your professional development instead of what the company does. You can google them, but they will not google you (unless you are famous or something, then maybe). For example, I am a PR major looking for PR careers. It would not be smart to wait 20 minutes in line for a graphic design company simply because you didn’t know it was only for graphic design.
Make power moves!
As I mentioned earlier, I was very nervous when I first arrived at the career fair so I decided to speak with some friends. While I was chatting with my friends, I was taking up time that I could have spent with professionals. Make power moves and approach every table that you have interest in. When you approach the tables, be confident and introduce yourself first. Show that you are attending the career fair with purpose!
Make sure to wash and moisturize your hands.
An important part of what I consider to be a ‘power move’ is introducing yourself by shaking someone’s hand. When doing this, the last thing you want to do is leave a negative impression before you even get to have a conversation with a company. Make sure you wash and moisturize your hands. It sounds strange, but the kind of handshake you give will leave a lasting impression. It seems strange, but make sure the first impression you give is clean and smooth!
Print more resumes than you think necessary.
There is nothing worse than being unprepared, especially at an event like a career expo. How prepared you are at an event like this can determine if you get a job or not. Print more resumes than you think you need in order to be prepared to hand them out like free candy.
Never talk badly about another company who is at the career expo.
Even if the company you did not like is not near you, it does not mean that someone else will not hear. Remember, what Bob says about Sally says more about Bob than Sally.
Think of your strengths and weaknesses ahead of time.
Every representative asked me some variation of my strengths and/or weaknesses. After speaking with three or four professionals, I had my spiel ready to go. I could have sounded much better to the first few professionals if I had thought of my strengths or weaknesses prior to the career fair.
Congratulations! You have finished my 10 steps to surviving your first career expo. Now take what you have learned and become the ambitious professional that you are meant to be.