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How to wow them at the next career fair

September 10, 2011 - Education, Professional Development

college studentThe new school year has barely started, but university career fairs are already in full swing.

Having attended the latest business career fair at Notre Dame (good luck at the game tonight!), I had the opportunity to meet students with a wide variety of experiences, university leadership opportunities, and think-on-your-feet ability.  (On a side note, we met very few IT Management majors, in comparison to Finance, Marketing, and other concentrations.  Come on, ITMs!  Represent!)

In the typical pseudo-speed-dating style, I had five minute conversations with lots of students in power suits, stopping by with their resumes, looking for their summer internships or full-time jobs.  In five minutes, a valuable conversation must be had on experiences and future aspirations.  Not much time, obviously, so four critical aspects of the student’s ability and personality are looked for specifically:

Demonstration of leadership in on-campus initiatives

A good sign of a future leader in the workplace is someone who takes the lead in on-campus initiatives.  Don’t just be a club member.  Be a club leader, an initiative founder, a team manager.  Not only does this show your ability to balance classes and extra-curriculars, it also shows that you’re not satisfied with just sitting on the side lines and letting others handle the big responsibilities.  You don’t mind rolling up your sleeves and taking charge when needed.

Past internships (for graduating seniors)

graduating seniorsMy biggest piece of advice for college students: Don’t be a graduating senior without a summer internship on your resume.  For recruiters, it tends to scream lack of initiative.  Many companies will even hire sophomore interns, so you have two potential summers of valuable work experience.  You’ll be amazed at how much you learn on the job, most of which simply can’t be taught in a classroom.

Confident articulation of accomplishments

When a student hands me their resume, I ask them to briefly walk me through it, highlighting their accomplishments both on and off campus.  Practice talking about the accomplishments you’re most proud of, until you don’t even have to look at your resume to know what you’re going to say.  Be confident of what you’ve achieved, sell it, and make yourself memorable.

Clear career aspirations

I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again.  Never, ever, ever say “I don’t know” or “It doesn’t matter” or otherwise shrug it off when a recruiter asks you, “What kind of career are you looking for after graduation?”  I had more than one Finance / Marketing double major tell me “Oh, either one, it doesn’t matter” when I asked them if they were interested in a career in Finance or Marketing. It matters. Last time I checked, a career in Finance was way different than a career in Marketing.  If you think it doesn’t matter, it’s time for some soul searching, especially if you’re a graduating senior.  Have a better answer for that question.

So practice your sell-it speech, print a nice pile of resumes, and hit up those career fairs.  I’d like to meet you next time.

What university career fairs will you be attending this year?

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