The Ultimate Guide to Attending Career Fairs

This year, the Career Center will be offering industry-specific career fairs and networking events throughout the academic year. Join us for our two in-person fall career fairs – the Tech Career Fair on September 22nd and the Business Career Fair on September 23rd, as well as events throughout the year. To help you get career fair ready, below is a handy guide you can reference with steps to take before, during and after attending an in-person career fair.

Before the Fair

Determine why you’re going and what you want to gain out of attending

Whether you are looking to secure a job or an internship, want to explore the types of opportunities available to Boston College students, want to practice networking and giving your “elevator pitch” to alumni and/or employer representatives or listen to the types of conversations that take place, the career fair is a great place to begin taking these steps towards building your professional network and discovering options to propel you towards a meaningful career post graduation.

Make a positive impression

  • Research the employers: Log on to Handshake, click on the Events tab and filter by “Career Fair” to see the upcoming fairs listed. Select the fair and click the “All Employers” tab at the top to see the full list of participating employers. Research employers by visiting their profile in Handshake to see what class year and positions they are recruiting for. Also check out the company’s website to learn about their mission and values. Knowing about the organization will help you ask well-thought-out questions and make you stand out. Look up alumni on Eagle Exchange from organizations you are interested in and connect with them beforehand to gain more insight.  
  • Have your elevator pitch ready: Prepare a 30 second introduction, or your elevator pitch, to use with employers. Think about skills you’ve developed and experiences you can highlight in your conversations with recruiters. When an employer says “Tell me about yourself”, they mostly mean in relation to the opportunities and industries you’re interested in.You don’t want to sound like you are reading a script, but you do want to sound like you thought about why you are there.You can practice through the Big Interview mock interview platform and find more advice and examples here and here.
  • Prepare to look your best: It’s time to hang up those sweats, and dress in a way to provide the best first impression to your future employer and/or professional contact. You can’t go wrong with sticking to a business casual dress code. Also remember that The Career Center has a Career Closet to provide students with free new or gently used professional attire for upcoming events or interviews.

Have your materials prepared

Having a notepad, padfolio or a simple sheet of paper can be helpful for referencing your preparation research or jotting down notes during your conversations at the fair. Also be sure to have a couple printed out copies of your resume. Need another set of eyes for review? Visit our office during drop-in hours and have a  member of the Career Center team provide you feedback or review our resume resources online. Not all employers will take your resume, and may refer you to submit via their website. Either way, it is always good to be prepared.

During the Fair

Have a plan

You already know who is going to be there (per the steps above), but now you need to see the layout of the fair and decide the best way to navigate. It can be beneficial to meet with your top choices first thing. Or if you’re feeling a bit nervous, start with some “warm up” conversations first by talking to a few of your other choices first. But don’t just limit it to your list – keep an open mind by exploring your options with other companies who might be interested in your major, experience, skills and accomplishments. The first hour of the fair is open to students from underrepresented backgrounds (this includes students with a disability, AHANA, First Generation, women, international, LGBTQ+, Montserrat -based identities, to name a few), so if applicable, use this extra time to your advantage.

Ask the right questions

Use each discussion with a recruiter/alumni as an opportunity to increase your knowledge of the employer and their job options, as well as the qualities and skills they are looking for in a candidate. See a list of example questions here.

Be patient

If the company you are interested in has a line, wait patiently for your turn. You can use the time to review your notes about the company’s opportunities (if you have your smartphone with you, opening the Handshake app can be handy to reference) and even listen to others as they talk to the recruiter. You can pick up some information that you might not know, and use it when it’s your turn. Waiting in line will give you the time to compose yourself and take a breath before you need to step up.

After the Fair

Stay organized

Keep a list of the contacts and companies that you met with in a spreadsheet, along with the dates and any notes from your conversations. Take the time to add the important contacts to your LinkedIn network within a few days of the fair. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date before you do this step! Need help? Check out our online resources here.

Don’t forget to follow-up

Remember to email those who took the time to talk with you. Thank them for something you learned about their company and tailor your messaging based on your conversation. You want to make sure to reiterate your interest in their company and what you’d bring to the role if they were to hire you. If a recruiter suggests a next step (i.e. apply for the position on Handshake, attend an upcoming event, send your resume to them, connect with another person), be sure to follow their instructions! 

What if you don’t find what you’re looking for at the fair?

That’s OK! Read how one student was able to pivot this experience and ultimately land a job! Keep in mind that there will be additional opportunities to connect with alumni and employers throughout the school year. Be sure your Handshake profile and career interests are up to date so you hear about these opportunities that align with your career industry interests.

Need some additional guidance? RSVP to attend our Prepare for the Fair workshop on September 20 at 7PM.

Good luck, Eagles – you’ve got this!

– By Morenike Eastman, Assistant Director, Employer Engagement

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