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  • Writer's pictureB. Burgess

College bound, again! Preparing for the finish line...

Updated: Feb 18, 2021

It is crazy to think how fast my collegiate years flew by. It sounds very cliche, but it feels as if it was only yesterday (actually about 8 years ago, but who is counting). In fact, those years were the best four years of my academic life. Special shoutout to the illustrious, South Carolina State University, my alma mater!

But seriously, college life swiftly passes and while you're finding yourself, enjoying the events and all the glorious perks college has to offer...remember, there is definitely an end goal. Your journey to reach that goal will differ from your friends or classmates, but face it the goal "should" be the same for everyone. Its easy to float through those years in complete bliss, but when you begin your sophomore, junior or senior year and your friends have internships and/or co-ops lined up, you don't want to be left behind. My advice to anyone is to truly enjoy those years, but also be reminded that there is finish line in mind. You're college bound, so are you planning for the finish line? A job opportunity?

This is pure free game, no cheat codes needed:

- There is NO reason why you shouldn't attend career fairs held at your university! NO EXCUSE. This is one easy way to apply for jobs/internships/co-ops and engage with recruiters on the spot. Employers that take part in school career fairs have a NEED they want to fill. Lets be honest, that need is to have college students in their company's seats during the summer or full time. Now lets be really honest, if you are a minority, that need is to have minority students in their company's seat during the summer or full-time. They need you, just like you need them. Do your part and SHOW UP! Recruiters will be present and more than willing to hand out job opportunities to "deserving" students.

How should I prepare?

- Assume your school advertises the career fairs in advance, as they normally should. Research the hosted companies beforehand. Highlight the top 10 companies that you are actually interested in. Be familiar with the company's mission or line of business. This is key! Do you need to know everything about the company? No! Have a cheat sheet with a few buzz words from the company's website, recruiters will actually be impressed that you took 5 minutes out of your "busy college day" to research their company. Hit your top companies first. Normally, your top picks will also be the other hundreds of students top picks as well, so be ready to wait in a few lines.

- Not pushing you to be an over achiever (well I am), but you should visit the other companies that you may not have a huge interest in. WHY? I'll tell you. A smaller company may not have the most attractive booth or freebies to give you. However, they do have jobs. Other students may not find the smaller companies as attractive, which means there will be less traffic at those booths. Therefore, there is a higher probability of you earning a job/internship/co-op. Not saying you have to take this opportunity, but who doesn't want more options! You may find out information that is valuable or is of interest to you.

- Update/tailor your resume. Print out at least 20-30 resumes on "resume paper." I know this seems trivial, but resume paper may set you apart from the other hundreds of students who simply printed their resume on plain, flimsy white paper. Wow, you stand out already. See how that works?

- Get your "fit" together. We all like to be well dressed for the specific occasion and a career fair should require some effort to your attire, as well. Some will advise you to play it safe with the usual blue/black/white attire. In my opinion, there isn't anything wrong with personal style that is professional, of course! This may also help you to be more memorable and stand out. Keep in mind that your personal style should not lead the conversation; your skills, experience, and character should be the leading factor. You don't need that 3-piece suit! However, you should be well-groomed and clothing should fit your body accordingly. Your professional attire should deliver a message that you are prepared, comfortable and confident.

- Get your PITCH together. An easy, yet sometimes difficult question is "Tell me about yourself?" I know, I know, this is such a redundant question and every recruiter will possibly ask you this. If you are anything like me, I initially think to myself, "just read my resume, its self explanatory." Well, that won't get you anywhere during a career fair, recruiters only have time to probably scan your resume. Your pitch should have enough information to instantly sell your great qualities and/or interests. You want the recruiters to say/think, "Hmm I would like to know more about this student, he/she maybe a great fit for this opportunity." Wow, you stand out, AGAIN! See how that works?

Make it easier on yourself and have a quick pitch memorized. Honestly, after the fourth time you have to repeat this, you will become a pro and be able to adapt it to your audience.

*extend handshake, smile, and make eye contact* "Hi, I'm Brittany. I researched your company and noticed that it is a non-profit organization that partners with educational school districts to provide innovative STEM curriculum instruction to underrepresented middle schools and high schools. (Mission Statement). I have a huge passion in giving back to the community and promoting STEM disciplines. Ironically, I recently wondered how to start.(Peeked Interest) I would love to learn more about what your company has to offer. I have coursework experience in Data Analytics, Cloud Computing, & Mobile App Development and leadership experience in various organizations. (Experience).

- Be prepared for an on-site interview, its possible! Its important to know who you are speaking too. Are you speaking to a recruiter, the hiring manager, or a technical lead? The interview style for each is different. A recruiter may ask you more personal/developmental type questions, whereas a lead may ask you more specific questions pertaining to that job.

What are my next steps and expected outcomes?

- So you get back to your living quarters with tons of free stuff and you also have all of the business cards from the booths that you visited. BOOM! You have a direct line of contact to the companies. Take the next few days to send an email to the point of contacts from the business cards. Thank each recruiter for taking the time out to speak with you at the career fair (include the date and school). Include a statement that will hopefully make the recruiter remember you. Attach your resume again, and let the networking begin and stay in touch!

By no way, is this the end all be all in finding an opportunity during your college tenure.

However, this is just one avenue to leverage the opportunities that you don't have to necessarily go out and search for.

Just a few hours of one day could lead to multiple opportunities, direct company points of contact, and improved interviewing skills.

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