How to Introduce Yourself Effectively at the Career Fair

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.

John Grisham Gives a Me a Book

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.

Welcome Back Students!

The staff in Career & Leadership Development are here to help you with your career-related needs. We can meet with you in person, have a conversation over the phone, or electronically. Feel free to schedule with us by calling our main office at (262) 472-1471, or by stopping by our office located in room 146 of the University Center.

Let me introduce the career staff available to help you. The following staff work with students in each of these areas:

Brian Bredeson – All majors in the College of Education; All Science and Mathematics majors

Jason Brown – All Humanities and Social Science majors; Career assessment, counseling/planning

Kathy Craney – Veteran’s, Returning Adults, Federal Government jobs, and work visas; Career counseling/planning

Laura Jacobs – All majors in the College of Arts & Communications; Internships

Frank Lanko – All majors in the College of Business & Economics

Margaret O’Leary – Available to answer questions about your Hawk Jobs account

Eunice Lehner – Available to answer questions about our On-Campus Interview program

Here is an overview of how we can help you…

Career Exploration – Meet with a career counselor to talk about career paths that best align with your interests, values, and abilities.

Career Information – Staff can assist with your research into various careers and industries, and talk about employment trends.

Job Search Strategy – Discuss how to best organize and conduct your job or internship search. Learn to implement an effective process for finding a job, and about the resources we have online to help you with your search.

Help with Internship and Job Search – Whether you’d like your resume reviewed or help preparing for your interview, we can help you with all aspects of your search.

Developing Your Professional Network – Discuss how tactics such as informational interviewing can help you develop your professional network and help guide your job search.

Social Media – Do you want to know more about how to use LinkedIn for your job search? Other forms of social media? Staff are willing to review your profile and discuss how to effectively use these tools.

Advice About Accepting Offers – We’re here to offer advice on the “do’s” and “don’ts” when responding to employment offers.

Transition Into Work Issues – Staff are available to help talk through strategies for successfully starting your job or internship.

The Career & Leadership Development office is open from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, and 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. on Fridays.

Summer Services

UW-Whitewater students and alumni are encouraged to contact Career & Leadership Development for help with their career-related needs. Here is a summary of the career services we offer:

Self-Exploration Services – Meet with a career counselor to assess your interests, values, and abilities, and gain a better understanding of your career path.

Career Information – Staff can assist with your research into various careers and employment trends.

Job Search Strategy – Talk with a staff member about how to organize and conduct your job or internship search. Learn about how to follow an effective process for finding a job, and discover the resources we have online to help you with your search.

Help with Internship and Job Search – Whether you would like your resume reviewed or help preparing for interviews, we can help you be prepared for your search.

Developing Your Professional Network –  Discuss how tactics such as informational interviewing can help you develop your professional network and help guide your job search.

Social Media – Want to know more about how to use LinkedIn for your job search?  Other forms of social media? Staff are willing to review your profile and discuss how to effectively use these tools.

Advice About Accepting Offers – We’re here to offer advice on the “do’s” and “don’ts” when responding to employment offers.

Transition Into Work Issues – Staff are available to help talk through strategies for successfully starting your job or internship.

Major Specific Help – These staff work with students enrolled in the following academic programs, or students interested in these employment areas:

Brian Bredeson – All College of Education majors; and all Science and Mathematics majors

Ron Buchholz – All College of Business & Economics majors, including MBA and MPA

Kathy Craney – Anyone interested in Federal Jobs; Veteran’s; and Returning Adults

Laura Jacobs – All Arts & Communications majors; all Languages, Social Sciences, and Humanities majors

We’re available to meet with you in-person, on the phone, by using Skype, or via email. The Career & Leadership Development office is open from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday during the summer. The best way to schedule an appointment is by calling (262) 472-1471.

Make A Difference Day

Last year over 4,500 UW-Whitewater students participated in volunteer service projects on-campus, in the community, and internationally. Collectively these students amassed more than 31,000 hours of service, and raised and donated in excess of $94,000 to local and national charities. UW-Whitewater students have consistently been generous with their time and talents, and have demonstrated the compassion and commitment to make a difference in our world.

What does this have to do with career development? Well, everything. Especially in more in-depth volunteer service roles, students have the opportunity to gain knowledge and practice skills that serve as valuable evidence in their job search process. During an employment interview you will be asked to give an example of a time when you worked effectively as part of a team, for example. It doesn’t matter whether or not the evidence you provide is part of a paid, work experience, or a volunteer service experience – the fact that you have evidence is what’s important to the individual conducting the interview. Collectively and individually, your service experience provides evidence of the knowledge and skill you would bring to the job.

On April  29th, UW-Whitewater and the City of Whitewater will again sponsor the annual Make-A-Difference Day. This service activity accommodates hundreds of student and community volunteers, all working together to contribute to the public good. For those students who have yet to begin their service journey, the Make-A-Difference Day event is a great introduction to the benefits of service, and I encourage both experienced volunteers and those new to service to participate in this wonderful event. Students (and faculty and staff) can register by going to their MyUWW site. Community members should go to the City of Whitewater site to register for the event.

Multicultural Career Fair

The annual Multicultural Career Fair will be held on Thursday, February 10, 2011 from Noon until 4:00pm on the UW-Whitewater campus in the University Center, Hamilton Room. This career fair is open to all students, providing attendees the opportunity to further develop their professional network by having focused conversations with recruiters. The opportunity to practice the skills associated with networking is extremely valuable, since many entry-level job seekers struggle with participating in succinct, meaningful conversations with prospective employers. I consistently hear from recruiters that many fair participants need to improve their skills in this area.

It’s best if students planning to attend the fair develop and practice their self-pitch prior to the day of the fair. A good self-pitch incorporates a good handshake and greeting that includes your name, major, year in school, and something that relates to that particular employer, such as an internship or work experience that you’ve had that aligns your career interest and direction with the employer.

Beyond the self-pitch, students will want to ask thoughtful questions of the recruiter. You won’t put your best foot forward if you ask the recruiter to tell you about their company or ask, “What does company X have for me?” Prepare your questions in advance, and be ready to ask one or two questions immediately after your self-pitch. Most likely your entire conversation will be brief, probably in the 2-3 minute range.

When you’re prepared for the job fair experience, you will stand out to the recruiter. See you at the fair!

Resource: Vault Career Insider

Career & Leadership Development has subscribed to  a very good career resource called Vault Career Insider. This product contains information useful to most job seekers, as well as valuable information to those exploring various career paths. Vault may be found from your Hawk Jobs main page – select Career Resources on the top bar, then select Vault. First time users will need to create their account, which is very simple to do. You’ll receive an immediate reply from Vault, then you’re ready to access the information!

For those of you exploring career paths, check out the Career Guides. The are 12 Career Topic Guides, providing useful information about what it’s like to work in various fields. The guides also provide a wealth of information about various industries, employers, international career opportunities, and tactical information about resumes and interviewing.

Vault also provides resources helpful to learn about your job search – from information and samples of resumes, to career videos and blogs, and discussion groups. As you’re working to develop your job search plan, Vault will provide you with wonderful resources that will help you land that job you most desire.

And for those of you seeking information about various employing organizations, Vault provides more than 10,000 company profiles. These profiles allow the thoughtful job seeker to learn more about which organizations are the best fit for them. The company profile resource also provides 2011 edition of the “Best Companies to Work for…” list.

So when we suggest that you research the employer before your interview, start with Vault!