Career fairs are a great way for employers to expand their talent search to fill vacant positions in their companies. Many international students may feel the pressure of going to a career fair and looking for their dream job. But did you know that it is not just the candidates who feel pressure at career fairs but employers too as they are also under the pressure to find new talented people to work at their companies.
There are many types of career fairs for students. For, international students, there’s no right or wrong career fair to go to. One of our National Career Development Association (NCDA) members, Dr. Vera V. Chapman, has shared some great insights about the career fairs for international students such as Boston Career Forum – the world’s largest job fair for Japanese-English Bilinguals.
It is important to keep your mind open and take every opportunity to participate in career fairs. If you start going to job fairs early, you will not feel like you are pressed for time to look for jobs in the U.S. You will also be able to take the time to build more meaningful conversations with business professionals because you won’t be trying to quickly sell yourself.
How to Come up With a Game Plan
Before going to a career fair, it is important to prepare yourself before the event so you can maximize the time you spend at the fair. Below are some tips about coming up with a game plan on which companies you’re interested in talking to, how you will introduce yourself to them, and how you can make a good and lasting first impression.
1. Research Attending Employers
Most colleges and universities will release a list of employers and open positions that will be at the career fairs they are hosting in advance. You can be proactive here by looking up the names of the companies that will be at the fair and researching each one to get a feel for what each company is about. From there, you can narrow down the companies you would like to talk to at the fair and do more in-depth research on them so you fully understand what it is they do. Doing this kind of targeted research will help you look and feel prepared when you meet the companies at the career fair.
2. Be Prepared
Aside from researching companies before you go to a career fair, you should also prepare yourself physically. Bring a notebook and pen with you to write down any information, answer to questions, and names of the people and companies you will talk to. Be prepared to take pictures of business cards when you receive them so that you do not lose the contact information. I love using EVERNOTE to archive business cards as a document and put notes down after meeting with someone. Be sure to also bring your own business cards to hand out to new contacts after having a conversation with them and to bring your portfolio only to companies that have the roles you really want and what kind of projects you’d like to pitch them for. You should also dress to impress by wearing the appropriate business formal attire.
To prepare for conversation, pre-plan to talk about yourself and your experiences. Even if you have never had any job experience in the U.S. remember that job experience in any country is the same and it is even more unique if you have job experience from an another country.
3. Don’t Brand Yourself as a Non-Native Candidate
Career fairs can be a great experience for international students hoping to expose themselves to corporate American culture. Expect to learn from several different companies, receive a lot of beneficial information, and to find job opportunities. You should also expect a lot of other students to show up just as prepared, motivated, and maybe even more qualified than you are. Even though this may be the case, it is important not to feel intimidated just because you are an international student. Don’t think of yourself as a foreigner or as an international student. Instead think of yourself as a talent and qualified candidate. [Click here to Tweet]
So go out there, prepare well to do your best and most importantly be yourself. That is your only job.
When to Arrive at the Career Fairs & How to Get the Most out of Career Fairs
Think of going to a career fair like going to a party. If you arrive early to a party, there are fewer people there and you have time to look around and talk with the hosts one on one. By showing up early to career fairs, you similarly have better opportunities to build one on one relationships with the employers that will be there. Here I have outlined three key steps to take when you go to career fairs.
Step 1: Confidently Introduce Yourself
Like I have mentioned above, doing research about the companies that will be at the career fair will help you narrow down the specific companies you want to engage with. When you arrive at the career fair, walk right in and introduce yourself to the representative at the booth. It is important to give a firm handshake and note the name tag of the person you are about to introduce yourself to. For example if the person’s name in “Henry” you can start by saying “Hello Henry, welcome to the University of Cincinnati, how are you today? My name is…” and give your first and last name, followed by what your major is and some brief information about yourself. Be sure to smile and have a pleasant and inviting personality.
Step 2: Have Meaningful Conversations
Once you have the person’s attention by introducing yourself, use the knowledge you have about the company to ask questions and learn from the person you are talking to. Sometimes, the people at career fairs are not just recruiters, they can also be professionals in your field. Someone you dream to be like in the future!
Therefore career fairs are a great place to find future mentors. When having a conversation, be sure to always make eye contact with the person you are talking with so that they know you are focused, engaged, and interested in what they have to say. Avoid being too stiff and instead remember to be natural and authentic.
Step 3: How to End a Conversation at a Career Fair & Make a Lasting Impression
To end your conversation, show gratitude by thanking them for taking the time to talk to you and answer your questions, that you hope to keep in touch, and by asking them if there is anything you can do to help them. This is a great way to end the conversation and you would be surprised at how helpful you can be to someone.
How to Ace Your Interviews at Career Fairs
There are two types of interviews you can get at career fairs and these are the formal and informal interviews. It is important to prepare yourself for both just in case business professionals at career fairs decide to interview you at their booth.
Informal interviews are more conversational. Make sure you prepare your story by thinking about what you want to do. Prepare some of your compelling stories to share with them.During formal interviews, your school may send out an email for students to apply to interview with specific jobs. If there is an opportunity like this and you apply (which you totally should!) you will have the chance to interview with the employer on site at the career fair. For this kind of interview you should be extremely prepared because there is a chance that if you fail the interview it might hurt your next opportunity. So if you get a chance to get an interview with a recruiter or hiring manager, prepare, prepare, prepare so that you don’t set yourself up for failure. Please follow my S-P-A-R approach when answering your behavioral or technical interview questions.
How to Make Career Fair Connections Long Lasting
If you want to stand out and make connections do things differently from other people.
Many students print out several copies of their resume to hand out to all the companies at the job fairs. This only results in their resumes getting added and lost in a stack of other resumes received from other students also interested in the company. Instead of doing this, strive to build meaningful connections with the people you meet and simply exchange business cards with new contacts. If they want to hear more from you or encourage you to apply for the job position, they will be in touch with you and ask for your resume so you can send your resume via email.
How do I keep Maintain my New Connections After a Career Fair?
A great way to keep the communication flowing between you and your new contacts is to send out thank you notes 24 hours after the career fair. If you had a great conversation with anyone during the career fair, have built some rapport, and they are in the same town as you are, feel free to go ahead and ask for a coffee meeting to get to know each other better.
Americans are very open to network and meet with young and ambitious people so as long as you know about networking etiquette, you will be able to continue to grow that relationship. If you are going to reach out to new contacts from the career fair, be sure to not just contact them when you need something from them. Keep the connection meaningful by investing time in them as they also invest time in you. Volunteer to help out on things that they need help with and continue to seek to learn from them and their experiences.
Ensure Your Eligibility to Work in the US: CPT/ OPT
For international students, make sure you’re aware of rules and regulations of your CPT and OPT.
Receiving an internship offer?
When internships are an integral part of your degree program, it’s easy to obtain for the CPT. However, if your program doesn’t have an internship as an integral component, please contact your advisor and your DSO at the ISSS office as early as possible to discuss what you will need to obtain CPT for internships. Here are the steps to apply for CPT:
- Obtain a job offer letter to apply for CPT.
- Submit the offer letter, CPT Application Form, and required attachments to ISSS at least one week before the intended start date of the CPT.
- Be sure to pick up your new I-20 with CPT authorization before you start your position!
One important note: Make sure you watch the dates and hours of your CPT closely so you don’t jeopardize your OPT. More information available at US Employment Rules for F1 Students
I wish you all the best with your next career fairs!
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