So, you attended the Career Fair, spoke to employers and submitted résumés, now what!?
Prior to joining the Center for Career Development at UConn I organized and implemented a Career Fair for a small local college. Recruiters from key companies in the area attended and raved about the students they met, expressing lots of excitement about recruiting them for open positions. Several weeks later I received two separate notes from employers saying they were stunned that very few of the candidates they met at the fair had followed up with them.
What could possibly cause a student to not capitalize on such a great opportunity!?
Eventually I started to think about it this way, attending a Career Fair is a lot like seeking out a romantic relationship, something that most college students are attempting to do and something most are not entirely comfortable with. Imagine you’re in a social situation with friends and you meet someone new that peeks your interest. You have a conversation, it goes well, you exchange contact information and you’re excited about the possibility of getting to know them better. You tell your friends and the inevitable conversation ensues where all parties talk about what to say, how soon and the best way to follow up with them. Pretty soon the excitement you feel turns to uncertainty and nervousness.
In the case of following up and capitalizing on relationships developed during a Career Fair, the same uncertainty and nervousness often happens for college students. What do I do next? What do I say when I follow up? What method do I use? Can I ask them for something, if so, what do I ask them for?
It’s important that you don’t let this prevent you from turning the conversations you had with employers at the fair into real opportunities for professional experience, growth and employment.
Here are a few pieces of advice:
- Keep track of who you met and what you talked about. Ask for a business card, enter the information into a spreadsheet and write a few notes about the conversation you had. You can show sincere interest in a company by remembering the key points of your interaction with them.
- Thank your contacts. Send a brief note, e-mail or LinkedIn message thanking them for their time. If possible, mention something from your interaction to jog their memory. Lastly, ask for something specific such as an informational interview, a follow-up conversation or an opportunity to connect with someone in the organization whose professional interests match yours – keep the conversation going!
- Ensure that your correspondence is grammatically correct and professional. You’ve spoken to them in person and now you have an opportunity to impress them with your ability to write professionally (written communication is a top skill that employer’s seek).
- Continue networking! Don’t stop at one contact in a company. Utilize LinkedIn or visit the alumni office to assist you in identifying alumni employed at the company; connect with them and ask for their advice on how to get involved.
Remember, the ultimate goal of the Career Fair is to build meaningful relationships with employers in hopes of attaining future employment and professional growth opportunities. Much like when seeking out a romantic relationship you’ll never be successful unless you follow up and stay persistent!