Zareen Wajid, Talent Acquisition Specialist
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Every school year, colleges host career fairs. 50-100 companies congregate in a large hall to recruit college graduates for their positions. 500-1000 students show up with suits and resumes to entice a company and land a job.

Typically, students end up exchanging business cards and resumes, which either end up in the dorm room trash or in a pile at company headquarters, respectively. The question isn’t why do these career fairs still exist then. The question is how do you stand out to where your resume doesn’t end up in a pile collecting dust AND where you end up with a business card similar to the one you initially received.

Attend your college career fair in your freshman year. There are two good reasons to attend a college career fair your freshman year:

    1. To discover companies that offer internships
    2. To discover companies that hire new graduates

Imagine this… As you walk towards the Harrison Building Hall on main campus, you hear a quiet, but excited jumble of conversation. You know what’s going on; it’s a career fair. Before stepping into the career fair room, you notice a student in the hallway in a navy blue suit with a matching single-color navy tie, a well-kept beard, and a brown leather portfolio with a zipper. He looks nice, so you immediately compare him with your brown pant suit with matching closed-toe flats, a lime green collar shirt, a sock bun, and a brown professional handbag that carries your wallet, resumes, professional notepad with some notes written, pens, turned-off iPhone, and car keys. Huh… you feel good.

The room itself is filled with suits and constant chatter. You can recognize the company representatives easily- they are the ones behind the tables and with nametags. You glance around, observing that the companies aren’t in alphabetical order but are arranged in a large circle… that works.

You take out your professional notepad listing all the companies at the fair, and glance at the ones you put a star next to. You look up and see a starred company. Walking towards the table, you get stopped by a company representative who asks if you’d like some freebie pens and post-it notes. You walk up to the table, and say, “can never have too many post-its! Thank you. By the way, I am sociology major seeking a career in Public Relations. Does your company offer internships?”. They don’t.
Well, you ask a follow-up question- “Do you have a business card? Would you mind if I added you on LinkedIn?” The representative does, and doesn’t mind. You say thank you again, and move along to that starred company.

… At the end of the event, you have 20 business cards, you gave out 4 resumes to each company that offered summer internships, and your sock bun is still intact.

The “Owned” part. You didn’t walk out with a job, or an internship for that matter. How exactly did you “own” the career fair?

    1. By attending your freshman year, you have learned how to attend a career fair.
    2. You have started a collection of professional business cards, meaning you have started developing your network and professional relationships.
    3. You know which companies are affiliated with your school. Colleges maintain good relationships with companies- you will likely see the same companies again. That means that those companies you saw are interested in and/or have hired your school’s graduates.
    4. When you attend career fairs again during your sophomore and junior years, you will be better prepared to entice and sweep company representatives off their feet. Because you know what to expect. Because you know how to act. Because you know how to get noticed (professionally).
    5. You will be able to predict the job market before graduating. Career fairs are a good way to gauge how the economy is doing (ie. more internship opportunities means a favorable economy; more companies in attendance means a favorable economy). It will help you strategize a job search plan.
    6. You will know what companies are looking for, meaning you will know what to say on your resume and how to say it.
    7. You will have perfected your elevator speech, and let potential employers know about your knowledge and skills.
    8. You will have a good understanding of how to dress for interviews.
    9. You will, more than likely, have landed internships before graduating. This means, you may also be able to land a job from that internship.
    10. You will be confident about your job search (when the time comes).

So, there you have it… Owned.