There is a lot of helpful career advice out there, but one of the best things you can do for your professional future is to get to know people. Rosalie Shemmer, Senior Director of the Temple Career Center, notes that experience and internships are crucial, and that “the most common way to find a job is through networking.”
But how do you get that internship? And how can you build your connections? Career fairs (or job fairs) are an excellent way for students of any year or major to network with employers and to learn about companies or organizations. We’ve highlighted some of the upcoming career fairs in the area (including the Campus Philly Online Job and Internship Fair) and helpful advice for before you go; so be sure to spruce up your resume, put on your best business attire, and check them out!
Where to Start: Your School
One of the best places to jump start your career development is on your own campus. Career fairs are held throughout the fall and spring semesters, and are typically either industry-focused or general in setup. For example, Drexel University is hosting a Spring Career Fair on April 9 that welcomes students from all majors who are looking for co-op and full-time career opportunities (this event is open to other students in the area as well).
Drexel and other schools also host more industry-focused events, such as the upcoming communications fair or criminal justice fair at Temple. Since many campus career fairs are restricted to that school’s students, be sure to check out your own school’s career services website for upcoming fairs that you can attend.
But what if you missed your school’s spring career fair? Or what if you’re looking for a specific fair that your school doesn’t offer? There are still opportunities for you to get out and meet other employers:
- Campus Philly Online Job and Internship Fair – Twice a year, we drive extra traffic to our 24/7 careers site that features jobs and internships in the Greater Philadelphia region for current students and recent grads. Sign up for an account today, upload your resume, and be prepared to apply to any of the hundreds of opportunities that will be available from March 23 – 27.
- Greater Philadelphia Teacher Job Fair – If you’re an education major or you’re looking to teach after you graduate, this fair on March 18 is a great way to meet school district representatives.
- @AnalyticsWeek’s #AnalyticsFair – While STEM majors looking for a career in data analytics or programming may need graduate experience to secure a job, it doesn’t hurt to see the opportunities available and make yourself known to industry leaders.
- Philadelphia Nonprofit & Government Career Fair – If you’re interested in an internship, a career, or a volunteer opportunity within the government and nonprofit sectors, this fair is the place to go. Organizations representing issues from the arts to environmental concerns will be present.
So how do you stand out and make the best of your career fair experience? In short: do your research and make the most of your time.
“The common thread between standing out at a career fair and on a resume,” Shemmer highlights, “is that you have a brief amount of time to make a strong impression.” Since your time at the fair is limited, do your research beforehand. “All career fairs require students to conduct employer/organization research to find if their skills and experience match what a specific employer requires,” says Shemmer. You can do this by checking out the company or organization’s website and learning as much as you can about each employer and their values. Then, apply that information to your own skills or interests. This connection between you and the employer is imperative, so be able to link your interests to the company or organization. Lastly, hone the information you’ve gathered and the connection to your skills into a strong personal introduction (sometimes known as an elevator pitch). “Because your interaction with an employer or organization representative is brief,” Shemmer notes, “a great introduction is important.”
In general, Shemmer suggests that students prepare for a career fair the same way that they would for an interview. It’s important do your research, to dress in professional attire (business casual is always a minimum, but be sure to check a fair’s website to see if more professional attire is required), and to act professionally. This doesn’t mean that you have to be stiff and distant—just don’t talk to a potential employer the way that you would to a best friend over coffee. “Employers at career fairs are targeting qualified candidates for their positions,” says Shemmer, so bring your skills and your professional attitude.
While the process may seem overwhelming, being prepared and being confident are the best things that you can do to alleviate the pressure. Additionally, always be sure to utilize other services that your school’s career center offers, such as speaking to representatives about more fair preparation tips.