College Job Fairs – Why You Won’t Come Home With a New Pair of Shoes if You Just Window Shop

Window Shopping College Job Fair

I once worked for a company that had 47 number one priorities. No kidding…if you asked that company’s senior leadership what was most important they would tell you ‘Everything’. So every project got more or less the same amount of limited mindshare and over-extended resources and, guess what? Nothing got done…at least not on time or budget. And that, boys and girls, is a great recipe for mediocrity in corporate achievement. It’s also a great way to lose control of your job search because when everything is important, nothing is important.

You might be one of those fortunate few who goes to the fair just to see what’s up and finds yourself in an unexpectedly productive conversation with a company you like. If that happens that is awesome for you…kind of makes up for those times your backpack spontaneously exploded or you left your life’s work on a flash drive in the library overnight. But I wouldn’t recommend skipping to the job fair without some idea of which companies appeal to your interests in the hope that things just sort of work out. Hope is many wonderful things but it is not a strategy.

Find Out Who Will Be There

At a recent presentation at a university in southern California I asked a group of students how many knew which three companies they wanted to speak with at their upcoming job fair, which was about a week away at the time. Only a handful of students raised their hands. I then asked “Who has one of these?” and held up a list of every company and its corporate contact that would be in attendance. I was the only in the room that had the list, which was mildly impressive since I was neither student nor faculty. The students had access to it, but most of them didn’t know it. It turns out all any of us had to do was ask the university’s career services people and they were more than happy to help.

Narrow Your List

Once you know who will be there, make it a point to pick 3-5 companies that appeal to you. If you have a hard time identifying what kind of companies you should approach I encourage speaking to your career service center or you can leave me a comment below or on our Facebook page. I’ll do my best to help you out and point you in the right general-ish direction.

Focus Your Message

Picking your targets affords you the opportunity to craft your resume, your cover letter, and your personal message specifically to the companies that are best for you.

Plan Your Day

It will also help you manage your agenda on the day of the fair so you can make the best use of your time. I know students who described their initial job fair experience as “wandering through a mall without any money”, which I thought was a perfect description, because they were really more or less window shopping and weren’t prepared to do anything other than stand in line, hand out a resume/flyer, and ask ridiculously basic questions.

Very few heard back from the companies they visited. Those same students created a short list for their next job fair and came back to me with excited reports about callbacks, interviews, and jobs.

Focus is the foundation upon which we build.

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