First impressions matter, a lot. I heard this from my mom, a long, long time ago. And, as usual, she was right. Recruiters tell us about their experience at our career fairs – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
One of their biggest frustrations they share is when students approach them and don’t say anything at all, or say the wrong thing. “What kind of job do you have for me?” is not a proper way to introduce yourself to a potential employer. Oops! The good news is we can all improve our career fair skills.
Realize that a career fair is a networking event. It is all about how effective you are in introducing yourself to recruiters, and how comfortable you appear while carrying out your part in a brief, focused conversation.
Develop and practice your self-pitch. Your self-pitch is what some people may call their “elevator pitch.” It’s a way to introduce yourself and communicate your personal brand. One of the main things we encourage students to do before the fair is to develop and practice your self-pitch, including the handshake. For some networking events your self-pitch may last about a minute, but for a career fair I suggest making it no longer than 30 seconds. When I’m the hiring manager, I want candidates to be enthusiastic about their chosen career path. Passion. I want to see their eyes light-up. For me, it’s maybe more of a feeling than the words they say.
Before writing your self-pitch, reflect. Why did you choose your particular career path? What excites you about working in this field in the future? Which of your values, interests and abilities best align with what’s needed to be successful in this field? What experience do you have that have helped you prepare to work in the field? Answering these questions and others will help you connect with your passion, to find your spark.
Knowing this, weave the spark into your introduction. Include in your introduction some of the basics: name and major, expected graduation date. Then find a way to include your spark into your self-pitch. I don’t believe there’s one, correct way to do this – everyone will have a slightly different self-pitch. By sharing your “spark” you will set yourself apart from the others who meet the recruiter. You’ll be remembered.
Photo by Scott Brenner.