What they don’t tell you before the career fair

It’s that time of the quarter again— the chaotic, intimidating event known as the Career Fair has arrived. Whether you are a freshman attempting to dip your toes into the adult world, or a junior feeling the pressure to find a summer internship, here are some not-so obvious tips to help you prepare for a Cal Poly Career Fair.

Before: How do I prepare?

  1. Don’t just research the companies, research yourself. As you stare at that large list of companies, think about your skills and how you would like to apply them. Next, research those companies’ core values and see if they align with your own.
    • Can I see myself working at Mindbody? Yes, because I share a passion of combining technology and interconnectivity to create a better, healthier world.
    • Being people-oriented and able to work in a fast-paced environment inspires me to find a job in sales where I can constantly challenge myself.
  2. Give all companies a fair chance. Even the companies that aren’t the sexiest, most notable brands could be a great fit, so cast a wide net and keep an open mind! Any encounter will boost your social and professional skills, helping you gain experience speaking with recruiters.
  3. Create a list of your dream, target, and safety companies. Remember how you chose colleges? Do the same for your future job. A “safety” company is one where the skills listed on your resume match exactly that of the company’s job posting, whereas “dream” companies are those you may not meet the exact GPA requirement or consider the competition too fierce. Just because your “dream” companies may seem to be a long shot, do not sell yourself short. Who knows what a short conversation could lead to?

During: What do I say, and how do I say it?

  1. Perfect your pitch and find what is unique about you.
    The most popular conversation starter at the career fair is: “Tell me about yourself!” Before attending, type out a paragraph that includes a quick intro, your plans for the future, steps you’ve taken to get there and lastly how the company position fits your plan. Additionally, have a handful of stories that showcase who you are in a professional and personal setting. Tell your roommate, your mom, your mirror or even your dog so you can be comfortable selling yourself!

    • Example: My name is Sara and I’m a third year marketing student with a minor in event planning. I’ve learned a lot about myself during my time in college, most notably that I am a people person. Whether it be interacting with a variety of clients at my MindBody summer internship, or helping my fellow peers organize a ten-week program called the Women in Business Leadership Academy or even just working in teams to present a quarterly long project, I love personal and professional interactions. These experiences have not only showed me how I gather energy from those around me, but they have also taught me how to apply my marketing skills in a professional situation and utilize my event planning skills to help orchestrate an award winning event. I wish to follow my passion and share my skills with a company that values people just as much as I do, such as Facebook.
  2.  Questions, Questions, Questions! Ask what you need to know about the company and its employees:
    • “Do you feel you have a good work-life balance?”
    • “Where are you from? Was it hard transitioning from college to work?”
    • “What does a typical week look like for the people who are most successful in this role?”
    • “Tell me about your most successful intern and why they succeeded.”
    • “I’m great at working independently, but if I run into any problems, who would my team be? What sort of resources would I have?”
    • “Are you close with your coworkers?”
    • “I’m really looking to grow with a company—can you illustrate the potential for growth in this role?”
  3. Weave in a passion or fact about yourself, while connecting it to the company.
    • “In high school, I found great value in volunteering and I noticed your company makes an effort to give back to the community as well. Have you been able to be a part of that?”
    • “I am personally scared of not being challenged day-to-day, do you feel this job provides you with that?”
  4.  Don’t be afraid to get personal and have fun. Remember that these recruiters have been standing for hours, have probably had the same conversation 20 times, and are just itching for the clock to hit lunch time. After establishing your interest in the company, express interest in that individual person and develop that one-on-one connection.
    • Ask them about their personal journey and how they got to where they are today
    • Ask about their trip to SLO and suggest a place to eat or visit

Afterward: How do I make them remember me?

  1. Send that post-meeting email.
    Keep it short and sweet, thank them, and mention a topic that you talked about that day and how it resonated with you.

Ultimately, remember that this is a mutual selection process. Although companies may be looking for their perfect fit, you are too! While that may take some time, hopefully these tips and tricks will help you prepare, relax and be your best self.