Friday, February 24, 2017

Advice from Students: Career Fair and Job Search

On Wednesday, February 22nd, six Saunders College of Business student panelists shared their advice on how to work career fairs and job searches. Though the panel was organized for SCB and COLA students, their tips can be helpful for anyone who feels intimidated or unsure about their career experience, so we wanted to share them with you.

Make yourself stand out.

Know your story. To stand out, it's all about spinning your story. What do you want to tell employers about yourself that would make you different?
Tell them how you're going to apply your experience to your next job. Tell them why you want to work for their company. Show them your ambition and why you can be a valuable asset.
Show your unique aspects. Every person is different, and it's important to share what that is about yourself that will make you memorable.

Your appearance should be professional. Instead of wearing a vibrant shirt, Jacob recommends keeping it crisp and clean with a white shirt (maybe checkered) with a powerful tie.
Wear minimal makeup and avoid overbearing perfumes and colognes.
Very important: wear comfortable shoes for career fair! If you don't, eventually you will end up focusing more on the pain in your feet than the recruiters that you waited in line to talk to.
All of this together shows you took time to make sure you look good, and in turn, increases your confidence.

Have a good resume. Get your resume reviewed by peers or by career advisors. Remove any mistakes in spelling or grammar.
Mila printed her resume on nice paper, and a recruiter showed it off to her colleagues saying, "See? Business students know how to do it right." You don't necessarily have to print it on nice paper, but taking that extra step can go a long way.

Be as prepared as you can be.

Research companies ahead of time. Ethan regrets not doing so the first time he attended a career fair. Now, he highly suggests that you apply for a position at the company beforehand. This gives you more to talk about with the recruiter.

Set your expectations for what you are looking for. Advocate for yourself. If you don't get anything out of career fair, use it as an opportunity to gain experience in networking and practicing your elevator pitch. Jacob reminds us that, "if you're doing what you love, you will be successful."

Bring a padfolio with you. This gives you a place to collect business cards and take notes on what recruiters are saying.

Practice to minimize your margin for mess up. Set up mock interviews. Look up potential questions and rehearse your answers. Employers want to see how you approach a question, not necessarily what your answer is. No one knows everything, but how you approach a problem is what makes you different from the next.
Oksana recommended "Breaking into Wall Street" for finance students, which walks you through tons of questions you may be asked.

Have a strategy for career fair.

Avoid large companies with long lines -- if you can. Certain companies are always crowded during career fair, but they're also frequently on campus with information sessions or tables. See if you can connect with them prior to the fair. Take advantage of speaking with smaller companies at the fair, and take time to attend other events with larger companies.

But at the same time, don't ignore large companies with smaller tables. These companies offer unique opportunities to students, and you may never know if it is right for you.

People with the tiger badge are RIT alumni. If you approach a recruiter with the tiger, it's another topic to bring up and talk about.

Be empathetic with recruiters. Alison emphasized this point, because it is a good first step in establishing a personal relationship. She mentioned saying things like, "I know you had a long day, but I just want a few minutes to talk to you about..." You can also offer them a bottle of water from the volunteer table.

Mention your major to recruiters, especially if it is different from the usual major they may be recruiting for. They might have a separate line for you.
For example, if you are an MIS student who wants to talk to an engineering company, the long line might just be engineering students looking to speak to their recruiter while the business recruiter has no line at all.

They might not be recruiting your major at career fair, but that doesn't mean they're not recruiting it at all. Oftentimes, employers sends recruiters only for specific majors at RIT. Ask if there is someone you can contact at the company that might be hiring for your field. Of course, still do your research beforehand about the company and the jobs they offer.

Follow up with recruiters.

You want to send a thank you email within 24 hours of meeting them. Use the contact information on their business card or ask your career coordinator for their email. All recruiters are required to register as well, and many have allowed us to share their information with students upon request.

Mention something unique from your conversation. This is why it is important to take mental or physical notes. This gives you something to bring up in that email for them to recall.

So many people don't do this, so take the time to show you really care about maintaining a relationship with them.

Volunteer for career fair.

Take the time to help out. This may sound strange, but volunteering can also put you at an advantage with employers. Ben has volunteered in the past, and he always enjoys being able to speak with recruiters before the rush. It's more casual and personal, which makes it more memorable.

Be aggressive.

Find what you want to do, and use that to do your job search. Many companies don't care what your major is. They want to see how you can fill in the gaps they have in their company. Frame conversations in ways that show how you can contribute to their company, and how what you know and what you do can benefit them.

If you want it, go and get it. Set a goal and don't stop until you get it. It takes a lot of hard work to get what you want. No one is going to hand it to you.

Remember, it doesn't stop when you get a job or when you graduate. There may be setbacks along the way, but if you continue to work towards your goals, you will get it in the end.

Reach out to those in your desired field.

Set up meetings or phone calls with people in a company or field you want to work in. Cold calling shows people that you are willing to take risks to get what you want.
But here are a few do's and don'ts of this strategy:
Do: Focus on building a relationship. It may start with you asking them a lot of questions, but aim to make it a conversation. In the long run, this makes them feel more comfortable hiring someone that they know.
Don't: Do not ask them for a job or make it blatantly obvious that you are looking for one. This will cause them to feel like they wasted their time if they don't have a job to offer you. Don't ask them how much they make or salary unless they bring it up first. It gives off the impression that you are only in it for the money.

Network with classmates, join clubs, and go to meetings and events. Speak to the people around you, because you will never know who you can develop a relationship with. Alison was able to set up an interview with Southwest Airlines after meeting a classmate who worked for them at an event. Having an employee recommend you to HR helps you stand out in the process. Remember, you are still responsible for your own interview and the rest of the hiring process, but this is a great push to start with.

Optimize your LinkedIn.

Make sure you are updating your LinkedIn. This is a platform many employers use to see what you are doing. Continuously keeping it up to date gives them something to look at and also puts you higher in search results for recruiters.

Constantly connect with people. Network as much as you can. Connect with people you worked with or know. Build relationships with those you want to work with. Use the platform to contact them and set up that phone call or interview. Remember to always include a personal message with the invitation! Connecting with people through mobile with not allow you to do this, so aim to send connection requests only through desktop.

Share articles. Keep interacting. This shows your interests and values. It shows that you are invested in your field and are passionate about the topic. Share, like, and comment on posts that spark your interest. If an employer sees that you shared an article they also enjoyed, it builds a relationship before you even started talking to them.

The job search process is difficult and is never easy, but don't give up on it. Even if you are not successful the first few times around, keep pushing towards your goal, and you will reach it.

Thank you to our wonderful panelists for sharing their advice!

Have questions for our panelists? Connect with them on LinkedIn:

Oksana Tymkiv (Finance)
Alison Schrmerhorn (New Media Marketing and MIS)


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