They say that first step to get past nervousness and fear is to own up to the issue. I am an introvert. I feel overwhelmed in big rooms and large groups. So the thought of walking into a room with 50 employers at tables with 500 other people in lines to speak to them is a little intimidating. Even extroverts who are reading this have to be wondering….how do I stand out?
Here are five ways to rock your next career fair.
Do Your Research
I know I’m not great at small talk, I never really know what to say. What I am good at? I connect pretty well one-on-one. I’m good with detail and I can make a killer list. So the question is, how can I use my skills to help me? More important, what are your skills and how can you use them to help you?
Find out which companies will be at the job fair: Now you can prep cover letters for each of the employers you want to impress. Do you know how many other candidates have prepped personalized letters? Probably almost none.
Practice your small talk: Do some research online and read industry blogs before the event. Know who won the big game the night before. Know about festivals in the city last weekend. Know how the company or practice is doing. Prep for the small talk and practice some talking points.
Fast Fact: What does all this research say about you? You’re showing the employer just how prepared you can be. You’re showing them how you’ll treat their customers if you get hired and they will be impressed.
Dress for Who You Want to Be
This can mean a lot of different things. Be squeaky clean. Wear something nice and professional. Wear makeup designed for an office environment. Wait you say, “I’m a student. I am not really sure what looks professional.” No worries, because you know someone who does. Call your auntie. Call your tia. Call your grandma, or your uncle. Put on a fashion show while you pick the perfect thing.
Fast Fact: You may look great in that outfit you wore last Friday night, but you want them to know how you will present yourself to their customers.
Make a Great Hello
At a career fair, the employers will see dozens and sometimes hundreds of candidates. They may just be collecting resumes and not even have an open position. You want to make an impression that lasts.
Write your 30 second speech. Highlight your main strengths. Practice it with your family. Sing it in the shower. Say it to your cat. They call this an elevator speech and it works. I once had a friend who entered an elevator on the first floor with the company president and had a promotion before she got off at 5. No joke.
What should the speech say? Try writing out your two best qualities. Now find a friend and ask them a simple question. Mine might sound like this:
“I’m really good at connecting with clients one-on-one and I’m really detail oriented. Which would you like to know more about?”
Maybe that is too blunt for you; but it makes an impression. It highlights your skills and shows your confidence. Now try it with your skills. Write it so that it take a few seconds more. But make it short and make it focused on your strengths.
Fast fact: You get hired because of what you know, not because of what you don’t know. I won’t get a job because I don’t know how to fly a plane. I will get a job because I know how to help others get jobs. So focus on strengths. If they ask about weaknesses, tell them how you’re improving.
Why Asking Questions is Mandatory
This is the hardest thing. You getting the job is not just about you, it’s about the company that hires you. You might think, “I really need this job.” The potential employer knows you need a job, but that’s not what’s on their mind. They’re wondering how you’ll help them make the world a better place, or grow their business, or help them serve their customers.
Hopefully you were able to do some research on their mission before you got to the fair. Talk about what you know. Ask them what makes them tick. Once you really get what they need, then tell them how you can help them achieve their goals. Make it all about them, and their interest in you will increase.
The Art of a Great Thank You
How many thank you cards do most recruiters get after a career fair? Not many…in fact, maybe not any. If you spoke to someone and you hit it off. Ask for their card. Then send a hand written thank you.
Reference your conversation. Mine might say, “I really enjoyed our conversation about your business and especially liked your vision to improve the lives of your patients. I couldn’t agree more, and my skills at connecting with people one-on-one and attention to detail can help you do that. P.S., I also had fun connecting with another giants fan!” You just complimented them on their vision, reminded them about your skills and reconnected over a common interest.
Final Fast fact: Study for the small talk the way you would for a test in school. Because let’s face it…your interview is the real final exam. Good luck!