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Reflections on UConn's Spring Career Fair

Spring 2017 Career Fair Poster - © Center for Career Development at the University of Connecticut

I attended UConn's Spring Career fair for the first time this Wednesday. Even though I don't plan on applying to jobs just yet since I'm a rising senior, I have always been a firm believer that it is never too early to start networking. I have been networking since my freshman year, but mostly through platforms like LinkedIn or at special events; however, this was my first time attending a major in-person networking event. Following are my reflections on the overall career fair, what I did wrong, what I did right, and what you can learn from my experiences. Although my statements will be based on UConn's career fair, most of them will talk to anyone planning to attend any university career fair.

What I did wrong

Not enough sleep

Although I blame the heavy amounts of schoolwork I had these past few days, I should have made sure that I could get a good amount of sleep the night before the career fair. Although it is fairly common to be sleep-deprived as a college student, if not mitigated, it can result in the impairment of core cognitive abilities, which are key at events like the career fair where one must be at its best in terms of being able to think quickly, and having the ability to both improvise, as well as to remember previously rehearsed statements. 

Not coming early enough

Although my day was genuinely packed, and I did make certain accommodations in my schedule in order to fit in the career fair, I realized that I definitely need more than 1 hour and 30 minutes to fully take advantage of the event. There are just so many employers to talk to - a good problem by the way! Also, you may end up having longer than expected conversations with companies and their representatives at the fair; in fact, it may well be a sign that they like you and want to know you more. I will make sure I clear my schedule way in advance before the next time that I will be attending the career fair. 

Not doing enough research beforehand

Companies and their representatives react really well when one shows knowledge of both the company and their specific industry(ies) beforehand. I was very grateful to the Center for Career Development for their Career Fair App that I downloaded on my iPad Mini the night before. It gave me quick insights into the companies present at the event; so I wasn't completely lost! 

What I did right

Leveraging all of my professional tools

The career fair was a busy day for my résumé copies, my business cards, and hopefully my LinkedIn account and my professional website. Employers are already expecting to see your résumé if you come to the fair; they will either ask for it themselves or will gladly take it if you ask them about it (unless it is against their fair recruitment policy). However, you can stand out from the crowd by showing your commitment to both your professional development and your career aspirations by also casually telling and showing them your other professional documents/accounts. My overall strategy was as follows: I would introduce myself briefly, and then ask about the company while simultaneously giving the representative(s) an overview of my academic and professional background. At some point in the conversation, the representative would either ask me for my résumé or I would find a very casual opening to ask them if they would see my résume. Nothing original in my strategy until this point, but the moment I get an opportunity to hand in my résumé is where I bring forth my other assets. For instance, as I am trying to grab a copy of my résumé from the insides of my portfolio folder, I would make a quick detour to the easily accessible pocket where I store my business cards, saying something along the lines of "here, have my business card while I am trying to get a copy of my résumé, in case it is more convenient for you." As soon as they take a moment to inspect either my business card or my résumé, I proceed to point out that they can also reach me and learn more about me through my LinkedIn and/or professional website, while conveniently pointing out with my hands that they can see the details for either on both my business card and the résumé I just gave them.

Making sure I had a chance to tell them how I stand out from the crowd

If you are attending a career fair at your local university, you are going to be competing against your other highly skilled peers. Unless your major is very niché or individualized, it won't really help you stand out just by itself. Whether it is major projects you did in class or for a job, languages you are proficient at, very specific or highly desired skills, etc., you should use any opportunity you get, throughout your conversations with employers, to let them know why they should remember your face from the hundreds of students they will meet that day at the fair. Improvisation can come in handy during these situations! For instance, whenever an employer would let me know about the global aspects of their company, I would casually mention how I find that so interesting/appealing, given that I am multilingual.

Utilizing the Career Fair App

© Center for Career Development at the University of Connecticut

I don't know how other universities do their career fairs, but UConn's Center for Career Development, the organizer of this particular career fair, has an amazing app tailored to those attending the event. The app had the basics I expected, from overall information about the fair, to tips on how to make the most out of it, a floor plan, etc. However, it was also full of dynamic features I did not expect. For instance, the floorplan was interactive! I had the option of selecting my 'favorite' employers from a list of those present, and with that filter, I was automatically and conveniently shown where those 'favorite' employers of mine were situated during the event. I also had the option of doing notes inside the profile of every employer present, filter them out by field, among other amazing features that made a breeze of an experience out of an otherwise possibly overwhelming event. If your university doesn't have a dedicated app for their career fairs, be sure to at least check out any other information/resources they are bound to have. 

My experience was highly positive. I got to know in greater detail some companies I may be interested in applying to, come my senior year, and I was able to make some impressions on future employers or referrals (quite a few staffing companies were looking for candidates for their clients outside of the fair). You definitely don't want to miss out on opportunities like this!

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  1. Very nicely written, Charles. Thank you for sharing your experience! Given your interest in GIS, I want to be sure you know all of the insurance companies are looking for GIS skills - be sure the check out Travelers and UnitedHealth, for example, as they have some pretty cool positions for GIS majors. We appreciate that you enjoyed the event and hope you'll plan to attend the next one in September! Lisa McGuire, Assistant Director, UConn Center for Career Development

    1. Thank you for your comment Lisa! I recently became aware of the opportunities found within insurance companies, and I have them on my radar now. Thank you for stopping by!

  2. Thank you for posting the valid information regarding gis.Hope this course can help the students to enter in to a bright career.can i get GIS Jobs in Hyderabad.