Instructure Blog

My work with Portfolium has given me the opportunity to talk and collaborate with college students and new graduates - and more importantly, to really listen to their needs. Through these conversations, I’ve come to realize that not much has changed since I was in their shoes. Students are still expressing frustration and often describe their job fair experiences as unsuccessful. They have an extensive list of impressive class projects, extracurriculars and volunteer work, yet they often walk away from career fairs having only focused on that one part-time job where they learned to file and make copies (content that’s not likely to “wow” employers).

Students often miss the opportunity to showcase the aspects of their lives that are just as relevant as any other professional experience.

What they don’t know is that, these “other experiences” often do a great job of encapsulating their skills, passions, and personalities!
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As a result, I’ve decided to create this eBook to:

  • Help you understand the value in career fairs and change how you might approach them
  • Teach you career fair hacks that will help you showcase different aspects of your life
  • Provide you with a printable cheat sheet that will help you make the most out of your next job fair

You will learn how to:

  • Establish a game plan
  • Introduce yourself
  • Show your worth
  • And end the conversation

[su_button url="http://smarturl.it/ebook_pdf" style="soft" size="11" icon="icon: cloud-download"]Download Now[/su_button]

 

So, let’s get to crushin’ it at career fairs!

In my years as a student, I always found career fairs to be somewhat awkward, inconveniently over-crowded and at times--highly stressful. But the most intimidating part of it all was that I had no idea where to begin.

I had been told by my parents, professors and mentors that career fairs were important, but I wasn’t really given any practical tips as to how to get the most out of them. Naturally, as a millennial, I turned to Google for help. I discovered several online forums that gave general advice such as “dress like you would for an interview,” and, “print several copies of your resume.” To be honest, I found that this information was a) really obvious and b) not enough. How was dressing professionally and handing out mass copies of my resume going to help me truly showcase myself?

It wasn’t!

My work with Portfolium has given me the opportunity to talk and collaborate with college students and new graduates - and more importantly, to really listen to their needs. Through these conversations, I’ve come to realize that not much has changed since I was in their shoes. Students are still expressing frustration and often describe their job fair experiences as unsuccessful. They have an extensive list of impressive class projects, extracurriculars and volunteer work, yet they often walk away from career fairs having only focused on that one part-time job where they learned to file and make copies (content that’s not likely to “wow” employers).

In short, students often miss the opportunity to showcase the aspects of their lives that are just as relevant as any other professional experience.

To add to my discomfort, I didn’t have too many “professional experiences” listed on my resume. I wanted employers to learn about my life-changing experience studying abroad and the awesome case studies I wrote for my business classes, but I didn’t know how to. All of these doubts resulted in me avoiding career fairs altogether. Regretfully, I missed out on several opportunities to make connections and gain invaluable experience talking to recruiters--even if it was just for practice.

What they don’t know is that, these “other experiences” often do a great job of encapsulating their skills, passions, and personalities.

We’ve created an easy-to-use cheat sheet to help you complete each of the steps listed in “The Day Before” section. You can access the cheat sheet template at: http://smarturl.it/cheat_sheet.

The cheat sheet will help you:

1. Research important information about the company.

2. Brainstorm academic projects/reports, jobs/internships, and life experiences you can showcase to employers.

3. Create bridging statements that link your skills/experiences to the company’s needs/interests .

4. Generate impressive questions to ask recruiters. Once completed, you can bring this cheat sheet with you to the career fair to help guide your conversation with each employer.

THE DAY BEFORE - How To Prepare

STEP 1 MAKE A LISTStart a separate cheat sheet for each company you wish to talk to

Your university will provide you with a list of all of the companies that will be attending the career fair. Familiarize yourself with this list and select 5-10 companies that you’re interested in working for and/or learning more about.

STEP 2 RESEARCHBox 1 of your cheat sheet

This may sound like an obvious one, but career fair rookies often make the mistake of only gathering superficial information about a company. Although it might be important to know a company’s size and location, it’s even more important to know the values they practice, their culture, and what their employees do.

Go to the company website and review:

○ Their mission statement, vision, and company culture

○ Any open positions they have available and their requirements/qualifications

○ Look for any recent press/news about the company - although most companies have a Press section within their site, you can always search their name using the “News” filter on Google

STEP 3 FIND YOUR FIREPOWERBox 2 of your cheat sheet

Now it’s time to brainstorm how to SHOW employers why they should hire you. Begin by considering the information that you gathered in Step 2: what are they looking for and what do they value? Most importantly, how do those things align with your skills, experiences, and interests? Many college students are intimidated by this step because they lack an extensive work history. What they don’t always realize is that there are other aspects of their lives that are just as relevant as formal jobs experiences.

HACK #1 USE PORTFOLIUM

So how exactly do you showcase these things? Resumes don’t necessarily allow much space for this, as they are traditionally used to briefly list education and employment history… Portfolium is a free academic digital portfolio that allows you to visually present and highlight your work, skills, and projects using different media. Our philosophy is that you’re more than your resume.

STEP 4 BRIDGING STATEMENTSBox 3 of your cheat sheet

Now that you’ve determined what specific artifacts you’ll be using to showcase yourself to employers, it’s important to brainstorm a few bridging statements that will link your experiences to the company’s needs and interests. Bridging statements are important because they:

○ Prove that you did your research about the company

○ Add relevance to your pitch; why should this project of yours be of interest to them?

○ Help you avoid aimless and narcissistic talk; it’s not about you, but how and what you could contribute to their team.

EXAMPLES

“I recently saw that (company name) was in the news for ________. That caught my eye because I recently wrote a report on ________, where I investigated ________ and found ________.”

“I understand that (company name) prides itself on its innovative, forward-thinking approach to education. I highly value this because I volunteer helping youth in schools and I can see the need for this firsthand.”

STEP 5 PREPARE QUESTIONS - Box 4 of your cheat sheet

To avoid overselling yourself, it’s important to initiate dialogue by asking questions. High-quality questions will not only show that you’re genuinely interested, but they can also demonstrate your analytical and creative skills.

DO ASK

How does your company define success?

How is your program different than others?

Inquire about 1-day externships and/or networking opportunities

DON’T ASK

Simple questions that can be answered online or in their pamphlets

How did you get the job?

STEP 6 COMPILE PACKETS

Use your cheat sheet to help you create a small packet for each company you’re hoping to meet with. Include: Your Resume - DON’T approach each company with a “one size fits all” mentality! Tailor each objective statement to match each company’s unique culture and goals. As you’ll learn by completing Step 2, not every employer will value the same skills and experiences. Your Portfolio/Portfolium - Contrary to popular belief, portfolios are great supplemental tools for students of all backgrounds, as they allow you to provide visual proof of your experiences. Include real samples and pictures of your coursework, projects, volunteer work, hobbies, etc. Really, anything that you’re proud of and is relevant to the job you’re hoping to land!

HACK #2 PRINT YOUR PORTFOLIUM

Use the Portfolium Export-to-PDF feature to quickly create a printable version of your portfolio. All you have to do is select 4 entries you wish to share with employers. Remember, make sure they’re relevant. From there, Portfolium will auto-generate a clean and visually-appealing one-page portfolio. Employers can then access these unique links to look at your work in more detail!

HACK #3 USE A TABLET OR iPHONE

Also, some companies accept every resume that is handed to them, making it easy for yours to get lost in the pile. Accompanying your paper packet with a digital presentation of your work will leave a lasting impression! A great strategy is to prepare a digital presentation of your work on a tablet. Simply open your web browser and go to Portfolium. com, as it’s fully mobile optimized for all devices! Or show your work using your iPhone. While it’s ideal for adding content to your portfolio on-the-go, you can also use it to share your work wherever, whenever! Look for the Portfolium iOS app in the iTunes Store!

THE DAY OFWhat To Do

STEP 1 ESTABLISH A GAME PLAN

Look at a map to find where each of the top companies you listed on your cheat sheet are located. Then, organize your packets in the order that you plan to approach each booth. We suggest that you build off of your momentum and leave your top pick for last! If you have time, try to get in a few practice rounds with other companies beforehand, as small talk will help ease your nerves. By the time you approach your favorite company, you should have enough practice and confidence to really crush it! Remember to keep your cheat sheet handy.

STEP 2 INTRODUCE YOURSELF

Your goal here is to give recruiters a quick glimpse of who you are and what you’re looking for. As you introduce yourself, hand them your packet. This will allow them to take notes as you talk to them.

Always:

○ Start with a firm and dry handshake - nobody likes sweaty palms!

○ Speak loudly - career fairs are often crowded and noisy; make sure you can be heard clearly

Start with the basics!

Include:

○ Your name

○ Grade level and major

○ What type of opportunities you’re looking for

EXAMPLE

“Hi, how’s it going? (handshake) My name is Royce Rowan and I am a third year mechanical engineering student. I’m looking to keep myself busy this summer with an awesome internship where I can apply what I’ ve been learning here at UCSD.” (hand recruiter packet)

STEP 3 SHOW YOUR WORTH

Once you’ve made your introduction and have handed the recruiter your packet, show them what you’re worth (don’t just tell them)! Use one of the bridging statements you came up with to begin describing one of your projects or experiences. If you’re using a tablet or smartphone, now is a great time to pull out your digital presentation/Portfolium and provide the recruiter with visual proof of your work. Remember, digital presentations are more interactive and visually appealing! Your goal here is to prove to them how and why you’re a good fit for their company.

EXAMPLE

“I understand that (company name) prides itself on its innovative, forward-thinking approach to education. I highly value this because I volunteer working with youth in schools and I can see that there is a huge need for that. As a mentor, I teach young high schoolers how to code. It’s been so rewarding giving back but also, being able to apply what I’ve been learning in lab to a real-life setting.”

DO

Show personality. Companies want to know if you’re a cultural fit!

Describe the process:

○ What inspired you to pursue this experience/complete this project?

○ Acknowledge any obstacles you encountered and how you overcame them.

○ Explain what you learned along the way.

DON’T

Just list your achievements or describe something that can be learned by reading your resume!

Say “I meet all of the requirements.” “Requirements” = bare minimum.

Waste time talking about your GPA, your time is limited!

STEP 4 END THE CONVO

By this point, you’ve undoubtedly impressed recruiters with a) your knowledge of their company and b) your awesome and relevant experiences. Now, all that’s left to do is end the conversation...and leave them wanting more! If you haven’t already done so, hand them your packet. Make sure to remind them that they can find more information about your projects using the links on your portfolio (see hack #2). End the conversation by shaking their hand once more and thanking them for their time.

OTHER BASICS: 

DRESS TO IMPRESS

This should go without saying, but always dress to impress! You should approach career fairs as you would any other job interview. If you’re in between classes or work, make sure to pack an extra set of clothes that is job interview-appropriate.

FELLAS

○ Pressed pants

○ Nice shirt + tie

○ Minimum: polo shirt

○ Dress shoes

LADIES

○ Skirts shouldn’t be higher than knees

○ Avoid flashy jewelry

○ Wear flats or heels no taller than 3-inches

WHY GO AT ALL?

Many millennials seem to think job fairs are a thing of the past. Experts disagree. Not only are career fairs very much a thing of the present, they’re also highly valuable. Here’s why:

While technology is quickly changing how, where, and when people interact socially and professionally, it won’t be replacing genuine human interaction any time soon. Even if your dream job involves working remotely and independently, you’ll still need to prove your ability to effectively work with people-- employers want to ensure that they can depend on you. These characteristics and personal values can’t be validated through a few bullet points on a resume. By attending career fairs, you’ll be several steps ahead of those solely relying on technology to make a first impression.

START NETWORKING

Being “well-connected” typically comes with age. More life experiences = more connections. Unfortunately, college students and recent grads often lack these professional connections. The good news is that career fairs provide you with the unique opportunity to start establishing relationships with influential people early on. In-person networking is the most valuable tool you can acquire. Take advantage of career fairs to meet mentors, inspiration and future employers!

With that being said, career fairs are even valuable for those who aren’t necessarily looking for employment. No one develops professionally overnight; it’s an on-going process that has no end. Job fairs are ideal to practice interviewing, strengthen communication skills, and to ask recruiters to critique your resume and portfolio.

TAKE IT FROM NICO:

“I owe my current job to Portfolium! My GPA would've disqualified me from my dream job at Northrop Grumman, but I was able to prove that I’m much more than my resume by using my iPad to showcase my projects on Portfolium.” Nicholas Montoya, UC San Diego Engineering.

THAT’S A WRAP!

Thank you for taking the time to read this - I hope that it serves you well. Now it’s time to take this wisdom and go crush it at the career fair! Good luck!

Any questions or feedback? Leave in the comments.

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