Are you ready for the Career Fair? Expectations and Preparation!

The Columbia University School of Professional Studies Fall Career and Internship Fair will be held on Thursday, September 7th from 11am-4pm in Lerner Hall. If you haven’t registered yet, you can do so here

A young businessman at the starting line of a race

What Career Fairs are About

Career fairs serve as orchestrated gatherings that grant job seekers, primarily students, the chance to engage with representatives from various companies, gaining insights into internship and job openings. Typically, employers are stationed at tables, engaging with job seekers throughout the event to discuss available positions within their organizations. 

The Long-Term Value of Building Connections

Cultivating a lasting rapport with companies of interest holds immense value. Employers lean towards candidates they are acquainted with and trust. Because of this, students and early-career professionals can gain a strategic edge by creating connections with key representatives in companies even before a job opening arises. Even if a company isn’t currently seeking your specific skills or level, exchanging contact information with a recruiter for future communication is extremely valuable.

Maintaining a connection with companies aligned with your industry and interests is essential. To establish your initial connection, you can request a business card from a recruiter or company representative. You can also connect with them on LinkedIn. This process of relationship building equips you with timely information about companies’ hiring schedules and job offerings, streamlining your career progression.

Benefits of Attending the Career and Internship Fair at Columbia

Participating in at least one career fair as a student allows you to explore available opportunities and refine your interaction with potential employers. These events can potentially lead to job interviews while also creating relationships with hiring managers and recruiters. Attending a fair will provide insights into employers’ preferences, something you can’t get from a google search.

However, it’s essential to recognize that a career fair is just a piece of the puzzle, not the sole solution. Complementing your participation with direct job applications, proactive outreach to hiring managers on LinkedIn, email correspondence with recruiters, and leveraging your network to uncover job leads is crucial for job search success.

In addition, attending these events provides further perks. It serves as an opportunity to receive feedback on your resume. Present multiple copies and don’t merely hand them out; engage employers in discussions about their impressions, queries, concerns, and suggestions for enhancements based on their candidate criteria.

For entry-level job seekers, inquiring about preferred qualifications for students and recent graduates can provide insights into hiring criteria when formal work experience is limited. This feedback can be integrated to enhance your resume.

Crafting and refining your elevator pitch is another benefit. Being able to succinctly communicate your background, aspirations, and value proposition in under 30 seconds is essential. An effective elevator pitch makes a strong impression in interviews and unexpected encounters with potential employers.

Checklist for the Fair – What You Need 

Elevator Pitch: Craft a compelling elevator pitch. Given the limited time you have to capture recruiters’ interest, an engaging introduction is vital.

Polished Resume: Carry multiple copies of your resume if attending an in-person fair.

Effective Conclusion: Create a strategy for concluding your conversations with employers. You can inquire about the next steps in their hiring process and the appropriate follow-up contacts. Express your interest in ongoing opportunities, signaling a forward-thinking approach.

Networking Plans: In a world where networking is paramount, capitalize on the chance to connect. Request business cards during in-person events or seek permission to connect on LinkedIn.

Summing it Up

It’s crucial to remember that while a job fair is a pivotal step, it doesn’t guarantee instantaneous employment. Avoid anticipations of immediate job offers or responses from every employer you engage with. Exercise patience, resilience, and openness to diverse avenues. The experiences and feedback garnered from these events can inform your resume, interview skills, and professional aspirations.

In essence, view a job fair as an invaluable learning opportunity. While it might not lead to an instant job offer, it has the potential to steer you toward your desired career path.

By Kat Castro
Kat Castro Associate Director | Applied Analytics Career Coach (Last Name W-Z)