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Why College Career Fairs Are Still Valuable To Students

Most campus career fairs take place within the first or second month of the new semester and it’s likely that you are reading this article because you are preparing for your own college or university career fair, right? Whether you are required to attend career fair for a class assignment or are actually on the hunt for an internship or job, there are still a lot of reasons why college career fairs are valuable to students, even when much of the hiring world is virtual. Here’s why.

Why Go To Career Fairs?

There are very few people massively excited at the prospect of spending a day in their university’s gym or event space talking to strangers in the hopes of getting hired. It’s awkward and uncomfortable, so why do we do it? Well, it works!

Many young professionals get their first opportunities at career fairs. Career fairs help us:

  • to network
  • to start building your list of preferred employers
  • to obtain information about companies
  • to learn about potential jobs/internships

Setting Reasonable Expectations

You should expect to wait in lines at employer tables/booths. Depending on how large your school is, this could be 5 minutes or 50 minutes. The more popular the employer, the more likely a longer line, so be strategic in your employer approach and make a plan to determine which employers you absolutely want to talk with, and which ones would be “nice” if there is time.

You should expect to hear no. Employers are on-campus to recruit for specific positions and if you don’t match their major preference or GPA or class year, they might politely recommend you try again next year or check out another employer.

All feedback is good feedback. If an employer says no, I view that as it’s not a no; it’s just not yet.. Ask for ways to improve, ask to connect on LinkedIn and take the time to build a connection with the recruiter to show them how you would be a good fit for their organization. You might hear no but don’t accept no means no forever.

How Career Fairs Help You Gain Confidence

As a university career coach myself, there is only so much I can do to help prepare my students for a real world hiring process. I can’t simulate a real, pressurized interview environments or control what questions students are asked in interviews. Going to career fair is a great way to simulate the typical hiring process including small talk and networking chats with real employers. By preparing in school and then demonstrating your learned skills and abilities in a simulated environment like career fair, you will undoubtedly build and increase confidence in how you talk about and present yourself to employers.

Going through career fair and not being 100% successful can be a hard lesson on what you still need to improve on too. Get feedback from the employers you talked to, ask what you could improve on or what worked so you know to continue to keep doing it! All feedback is good feedback if you leverage it in a learning way to inform how you move forward in the future.

How Career Fair Builds Your Virtual World

Does it seem counterintuitive to attend an in-person event to help build your virtual world? Typically, it would, however, when it comes to networking and hiring, having a pre-existing (even if brief) relationship or touchpoint in the real world first before moving things to virtual makes a huge difference. While most hiring can be done virtually now, that doesn’t remove or diminish the human element that is often overlooked in hiring.

Employers need to feel good about who they hire, and interviews are the primary way that helps both employers and candidates decide if a working partnership between the two is going to work out. Employers read resumes; they know the candidate can do the job. Candidates read job descriptions and they know they can do the job, now it’s about standing out from the crowd. The interview is the chance to connect more humanly and decide together if this is the right fit on both sides.

Oftentimes, having an existing relationship between employer and candidate will help expediate or deepen the “feeling” both sides have on if the hire is the best fit. If you can attend career fair, build your network in-person and capitalize and strengthen that relationship online or virtually, this will go a long way in helping you better understand what employers and jobs are best for you and what candidates are best for employers filling different roles.

How Many Employers in The Same Room, At The Same Time?

While developing authentic and professional relationships is important in the career world, sometimes you’ve got to play the averages, particularly if you aren’t the strongest candidate in the applicant pool. Perhaps you have no previous experience or have a lower GPA or just switched majors and haven’t even taken classes in the area you are trying to get hired in yet- all these put you at a disadvantage when you look around at the competition.

Unless your university goes above and beyond with some other type of career event, there will never be more employers in the same time at the same time than career fair. In this case speed and breadth are the name of the game. You’ll want to talk to as many companies as possible to increase the likelihood at least a few will be interested. Play the law of averages! You may have to wait a full semester or year to have another chance to be in a room with this many people hiring again, so give it all you’ve got and get the most you can from your career fair opportunity!