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Archive for April 2010

I’ve been to a few career fairs in the last year. I attended one at the PRSSA National Conference in San Diego in November. I also went to one in Atlanta at PR Real World. These two career fairs were good because they catered directly to students in Public Relations and because they were national companies, which was really cool. At the one in San Diego I was able to network with PR professionals at very well known companies like the CW television network, Ketchum, and Edelman Public Relations. This was exciting, but I didn’t feel like I was able to really talk to these people because there were 1,000 other students just like me at the fair as well. The career fair in Atlanta had many of the same companies and I liked it better because it was smaller and there were far fewer people. Unfortunately, I really didn’t feel like I got too much out of that career fair either. However, in February I went to the Georgia Southern Eagle Expo & Education Career Fair and it was excellent.

 The Eagle Expo was large and had a lot of different companies who were actually looking for interns and looking to hire soon-to-be grads. While there weren’t any Public Relations firms at the Expo, there were other companies who were interested in students in Public Relations and Marketing (which is my minor). I talked to many different companies but the two companies whose reps I was really able to engage in conversations with were Belk (the department store) and Aerotek, which is a recruiting agency. I felt like I made good connections with these people and I was able to give them my resume and my business card.

 While I know that career fairs are really good for networking and making connections with people that could help you get a job, I’m really not a fan. They are so awkward and uncomfortable. To be honest, the only part I enjoy is the free stuff that the reps hand out to attract you to their tables. However, at all of the career fairs I go to I observe the people who look like they really know what they’re doing. The Type A’s who attack the company reps and pretty much just let them know that they are the best at what they do and that the company would be stupid not to hire them. I aspire to be one of these people. Sadly, I am not. However, I have learned a few things from these career fair mavens. After many hours of being the girl who stands behind the powerful people in awe and throws my resume at the rep when they’re done being dazzled by the confident person in front of me, I developed a few strategies.   Feel free to test them out.

  1. Go to the rep with the shortest line or no line at all. These people are usually from the companies that are not very well known, don’t have much signage, and aren’t handing out anything exciting like cups, candy, or pens (who doesn’t love a free pen?). These are also the people with whom you will have the best shot of engaging in conversation. At the Eagle Expo I talked to the rep from Aerotek for close to 30 minutes; which is a rarity for me at a career fair. She was so nice and friendly and actually asked me for my resume instead of me having to ask her if she would accept it.
  2. Do your homework. The confident people at the career fair always seem to know about the companies and know exactly which ones they want to talk to. Before you go to the career fair, go online and check out the companies that will be there. If you’ve never heard of a company, look it up and see what they do. If any of these companies interest you then when you go to the career fair you can say, for example, “I know that your company is a recruiting agency, but could you explain to me a little more about what exactly you do.” This way, you have an easy way to break the ice. Nothing is worse than trying to talk to a rep and having no way to start the conversation so you just kind of stare at each other. Also, when you look up the companies know which ones you really want to go to and hit those up first. You don’t want to waste valuable time on companies that you have no interest in. However, if you have extra time you should go to booths that you don’t have much interest in because you might end up finding something you like about it.
  3. Don’t just dress the part, act it! I’ve noticed that the people who are good at career fairing are not only dressed very professionally, but they also act in a professional, confident manner. I’m so jealous of these people. It’s easy to look the part: a nice pair of slacks, a well-fitting jacket, sensible shoes, etc. However, being confident in your skin is a totally different story.  I like to have a career fair buddy. I’m more confident when I have a friend with me and I feel like it eases the pressure a bit. I highly recommend this tactic, however, if your friend is the Type A person who is going to steal the whole spotlight, you’re better off going solo.

 Hopefully, you are all the confident people that hog the spotlight at the career fairs. However, if you’re the lowly person in the shadows, like me, then try using one or all of these tips. They helped me. I also highly recommend you attend the Eagle Expo Career Fair. It is held in the fall and in the spring and is well worth the awkwardness.

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