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Career Fair Strategies

By April Calkovsky, Career Coach & Certified Federal Advisor, University Advising & Career Development Center

The 2016 Government and Nonprofit Career Fair at EMU is taking place on Wednesday, March 2nd from 1-4pm in the Student Center Ballroom. If you are committed to public service in local, state, or federal government, or in the nonprofit sector, this is the fair you simply cannot miss.

Interested in State of Michigan Government jobs? Attend the presentation from 12-1pm in Student Center Auditorium, room 208. Angela Shelby from the Civil Service Commission will teach you how to find and apply for State of Michigan opportunities!

What is a career fair, and why should I attend?

Career fairs are an opportunity to connect with employers face to face and make a great first impression. Many employers use online application systems that, once completed, seem to disappear into a black hole, and you are left to wonder if your application even made it to human resources personnel. At a career fair, you can make contact with a recruiter where you may establish a good rapport by demonstrating your communication skills and marketing your knowledge, skills, and abilities. The recruiter, impressed with you, may keep your resume and tell you to apply online, and then anxiously await your application through their system. In reality, it’s your first test from the employer. Are you able to follow through? Are you really invested in their company and their opportunities? The conversation you had with them was really a mini-interview. The online application shows them your level of commitment and makes you a veritable shoe-in for an official interview.

Here are a few tips and strategies to increase your chances for success at a career fair:

Research employers

  • Know who you want to talk to and why, know something about them, think of questions to ask them

Dress to Impress

  • This means a suit, or at minimum, dress slacks and a button down shirt with a tie, or a blouse or sweater
  • Don’t have anything suitable in your dorm room? Raid your parent’s closet when you are home for spring break. Stop at a Thrift Store. Check out the sales at Macy’s, Kohls, JCPenney, or Sears
  • Wear comfortable but nice shoes
  • Take care that clothes are not too tight, too big, too long, or too short

Practice your Pitch

  • Firm handshake, eye contact, smile
  • Practice on employers that are not a priority for you
  • Prepare your resume, no need for cover letters necessarily

Follow Up

  • Ask if you can follow up with the recruiter…and then do it!
  • Send thank you notes or emails the same evening
  • Reiterate your interest in the organization, remind them of something you talked about with them, thank them for their time, if an email, attach your resume

Career fairs are excellent networking opportunities and great confidence builders. In-person networking is among the most productive activities you can do to increase your success in obtaining interviews and ultimately, your first job after college. Don’t let a career fair pass without taking a close look at the list of employers to determine if there are agencies of interest to you.

Find all of the details about the Government and Nonprofit Career Fair on Handshake – EMU’s job and internship database. Just log into your account (yes, you already have one) at Handshake and check out the Fairs tab on the left navigation menu.

In the document library on Handshake, find resume samples and other tools to help you prepare for the fair.

See you at the fair!

April Calkovsky is a Career Coach & Certified Federal Advisor for the EMU University Advising & Career Development Center, 200 McKenny Hall (acalkovs@emich.edu).

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