Career fairs allow students to meet with potential employers, network

By Amanda Graf

It happens each year with the dawn of spring. The sleepy guy slouched next to you in lecture who normally wears torn jeans, a decade-old barn dance shirt and a backwards (insert sports team here) hat is suddenly wearing a sharply-pressed suit and has a determined look in his eye. Let the career fairs begin.

Every semester companies send representatives to career fairs at the University looking for the next Rafael Correa, Ang Lee or YouTube guys. Career fairs are an important first step for students to network, learn more about a particular organization and meet potential employers.

The career fair experience should start long before handing a resume to a potential employer, said Brandon Bute, assistant director of the Career Center, 715 S. Wright St.

“Really prepare as much as you can,” Bute said.

Angela Gonzales, senior in Engineering, went to her college’s career service office to have her resume critiqued before going to the Engineer Expo career fair last September. She also practiced a 30-second introduction with a friend before going to the fair.

“They were looking for a good introduction with a clear statement of why you were at the fair and why you were talking to these companies,” Gonzales said.

Career fairs are not just for seniors and graduate students.

Sophomores and juniors can use the opportunity to look for internships, practice networking skills, or find out what the job market looks like.

Bute suggests identifying which companies will be at a particular fair and then researching different companies’ Web sites.

This allows job-seekers to find out what an organization has to offer and which businesses match well with the particular set of skills a student brings to the table.

Students should dress professionally and bring between 25-50 resumes to distribute to employers, Bute said. He suggests leaving the cell phone and cumbersome backpacks at home. It’s also a good idea to leave the best friend behind, too. Companies are looking for independent thinkers who come prepared and can engage in conversation.

At a career fair, students will usually check in and receive a list of the employers, a map of the fair and a schedule.

Employers are normally seated behind their own tables where they take resumes and offer information about their company.

Gonzales said most companies accepted her resume and then suggested applying online, but it was still helpful to get different business cards and do some networking.

She did not find a job in September, but even if she’s employed before the next fair, she plans on going again and learning more about the companies in her field.