Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Dear Coach Kwan,
I never find career fairs helpful for me, as I hardly get to meet with companies who want to sponsor me. However, my career advisors advised me to attend, and I wanted to give it a try.
Since everything is still happening virtually because of the pandemic, I’m not sure how to handle a virtual career fair and how to optimize this opportunity as an international student.
An international student hoping for career fair success.
I understand how frustrating your position is. While career fairs are incredibly beneficial in helping you network, having your choices narrowed to the required sponsorship may leave you feeling unsure of what to do.
First, I want to share a story of an international student who received a job offer from a global company that doesn’t usually sponsor international students. And it’s all because of career fairs!
Uyen Tran is an international student from Vietnam. She secured a full-time job one year before graduating! When I interviewed her to hear more about her success, she showed me her motivation by telling me that she started attending career fairs during her freshman year of college! In her words, she decided “why wait” and took off some pressure of attending and needing to find a job. Instead, she acquired the skills she needed to have a perfect resume and a solid interview. She was also able to form connections, even though she knew she was not a priority candidate.
Uyen removed pressure for herself by getting to know how the career fairs worked. Rather than being stressed out about having to impress a recruiter that day, she was able to relax and form deeper conversations that ended up giving her helpful information for her future.
But for now, let’s get back to focusing on what you can do to succeed at virtual career fairs!
Career fairs are a great chance for you to get your name out there and for you to begin shaping deeper connections with employers. You can engage in a deeper conversation and they can get to see your talents and abilities. Moreover, seeing a name with a face also helps employers more closely connect with the candidate they are talking to.
I want to also go over some similarities and differences between an in-person career fair and virtual career fair. Covid-19 is expected to remain a threat for about another year, so virtual career fairs may be the one option we have right now.
So, what are some key similarities and differences between the two options?
- An ability to meet a wide variety of professionals and employers in one place
- Provide an easy and effective way to distribute your resume
- Give you valuable insight into the job market
- Give you a fantastic way to network with professionals in your industry and employers seeking employees.
Career fairs are fantastic media to connect and hone your fine-tuned networking strategies! Whether online or in-person, you will have the ability to still put a name to a face and have conversations that can lead to success.
However, here are some important differences
- At a virtual career fair, employers can pre-select their candidates based on the attendees’ profile
- Your quality of writing should be your top priority in virtual job fairs
Unfortunately, virtual career fairs limit the number of potential connections you could make. Due to the pre-selection, you may be feeling flustered and unsure of how to grab the attention of a potential employer. That is why I suggest honing these skills to make sure you leave them wanting to know all about you:
- Polish your Career Brand
- Define your Goals and do your Research
- Prepare your Elevator Pitch
What all of these tips have in common is being prepared! Being prepared gives you a professional polish and shows that you respect the person’s time and energy connecting with you. Indeed, these types of events can be nerve-wracking, so being prepared will also help you stay calm and focused on selling your best self.
Let’s go into further detail about each of these points so you will be ready to nail your next career fair!
1) Polish your Career Brand
Don’t brand yourself as a candidate who needs work sponsorship. Instead, brand yourself as a problem solver.
Who are you? What do you offer to a company? What makes you stand out? These are all aspects tied with your career brand. When you are asked what inspires you and motivates you, or why you want to work or connect with a certain company, it is vital you have your career brand polished and defined. Connecting with others professionally is a time to sell you and what makes you a vital asset. Are you passionate and driven? Do you turn around projects with efficiency? Are you friendly and a great communicator? Any of these are examples of things you can use when creating your personalized brand. Finally, please make sure to showcase your solid career brand on your resume and LinkedIn.
2) Define your Goals and Do your Research
It is important to recognize what you want, both short term and long term. If a company doesn’t align with the work you want to do, invest your energy into people and jobs that match your goals and interests. Plus, you will find it is a lot easier to put time and research into a company that matches your desires!
You will always stand out to an employer if you take the time and research the entire company. Show them that you are dedicated and passionate about the company, not just about making money. It feels good to be validated and have people show that they care about you, right? The same thing applies to a potential employer!
Research can be looking at the company’s history, leadership, competitors, and clients. It can also be following the company or employers’ social media pages or even find a mutual connection who can give you information about your desired company.
When you connect, have questions that inspire conversation. You want to leave the employer wanting to get to know you as much as you want to get to know them. These questions can be about asking about a particular role, the hiring process, the employer’s experiences, and what you can do to stay in touch. Your questions should be a prime example of your research and your care.
Anything you can do to learn about the company and why it aligns with your goals will be a great help in any conversation or interview with the employer or connection!
3) Prepare Your Elevator Pitch
Depending on the platform that your school uses, some virtual career fairs offer a chat feature or 1:1 booking. It is important to get your short self-introduction ready as there could be an opportunity to chat either via typing or video conferencing.
Your elevator pitch is a chance to give a solid first impression. Your elevator pitch should be concise and leave whoever you’re connecting with wanting to hear more about you. Give yourself between 30-60 seconds or 100 words max to introduce yourself and discuss what you have done, are doing currently, and desire to do. Don’t worry about sharing every detail. As the conversation continues you can take the time to share more about your technical details! And don’t worry about having every word being formal. Be flexible and adapt to each environment you are in. Have fun selling yourself! Remember you are awesome and should be proud of who you are and what you can do! If you’d like to review what questions you should ask and shouldn’t ask at a career fair, you can check out this article.
If you take the time to implement these tips, you should find it a lot easier to connect with other employers and find employers wanting to connect with you! Every chance you take to connect is one you should take!
If you found this blog helpful, I have another helpful resource for you!
Would you like to get a career fair cheat sheet? I will share the sheet in our FB group for International Students! Please join us there to receive more helpful tips and grab the resource, so you can organize and prepare to tackle any career fair, whether it be in-person or virtual!