By Cathryn Edelstein, Scholar-in-Residence, Emerson College & Author of Excuse Me, Can You Repeat That? How to Communicate in the U.S. as an International Student – A Reference Guide.
Sounds easy, right? Well it can be if you approach the career fair prepared and confidently. Being prepared will bring you confidence….
Step 1. Have some business cards or ‘calling cards’ printed. No need to create anything fancy, but they should be professional. Visit Staples or an online business card company. Make sure to include your name, academic degree status/area of study, address, phone number, email address and LinkedIn contact information. You shouldn’t have a company name on it – if you are still a student, it is fine to include the college or university you are attending. (Take a look at Sample Business Cards)
Step 2. Create a professional résumé. Make sure at least two people have reviewed it for errors – grammar and organizational. If possible, have a career counselor look at it. Print out several copies to hand out to prospective employers. (Take a look at Purdue OWL’s Résumé Workshop)
Step 3. Check out the layout of the fair and where each company you are interested in will be stationed. This will allow you to make the most of your time as you won’t be wandering around looking for the companies you want to approach.
Step 4. Research the companies – who they are, what positions they have open, what their culture is, and what they do. Don’t meet the representative from a company without knowing some information about them. This will allow you to ask questions that are not topical in nature, but deeper and more probing. Prepare questions. Don’t be caught off guard!
Step 5. PROBABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT ADVICE
- When you meet the representative – shake their hand, look at them in the eyes and smile. Nonverbal communication is as important as what you will say.
- Create a credibility statement. What’s this you ask?
Create a pitch about yourself that provides an employer with three skills you have that they would deem desirable. Don’t share them unless asked and relevant. Remember, they have your résumé, so when they meet you, they want to hear narratives that support what they can read about you.
When you choose these skills to describe what you can do, create a narrative that describes when you used them.
For example: “I am a great leader, I take initiative when I work in groups to organize and keep everyone on task. This past semester I worked with a group of four peers to create a blog for a project. When we first met, I asked everyone to express what skills they had to help create the blog. After that, I created a timeline for us to follow to make sure we would be ready to launch the blog by the deadline. I then created a Google document so we could all share our work. Although we all worked as a team, I took the lead in making sure we worked efficiently. The blog was a success – it was a great learning experience for all of us. *”If you’d like to see the blog, I ‘d be happy to email you the link.”
*Follow up with an action step if it seems appropriate.
Step 6. Craft your pitch carefully and make sure it responds to what is being asked. Listen carefully. Don’t be too aggressive, but exude confidence and professionalism. Usually one of the skill narratives you have prepared will be suitable as a response – but make sure you choose the correct one at the right time.
Step 7. Shake their hand, look at them directly in the eyes and smile. Leave with a promise to stay in touch and follow up. Give them a copy of your résumé and your business card. Email them or write them a hand written note stating how nice it was to meet them.
P.S. Although the steps described above are used in the U. S., most can be used when greeting a representative from a global company as well. Take into consideration the culture and language of the company representatives.