Career fairs can be overwhelming for first-time attendees, but there are steps to take to not only become comfortable, but also gain the most out of the experience.
Dr. Theresa Cruz Paul, director of the Center of Career and Professional Development (CCPD), along with her team, organize six different career fairs for WCU students throughout the year.
Career fairs are events that allow employers and recruiters to meet with potential employees (students) and where job seekers receive more information about potential job postings.
Career fairs at WCU typically take place in the Ramsey center, where hundreds of employers fill the arena.
At the beginning of every year, the CCPD hosts a part-time employment fair for students to search for jobs they can work during the upcoming year.
The first career fair of the fall semester will take place Sept. 26. The Career Fair Plus will host 100 to 130 employers in the Ramsey Center from across the nation and across numerous industries. The CCPD will also host a Construction Industries Fair Oct. 3 in the Ramsey Center. This fair will only feature construction companies but is open to all majors, as many companies need more than just construction management majors.
Career Fair Plus will return to the Ramsey Center Feb 13. The CCPD will also host an education fair in March – the date and time for this fair are not yet determined. To end the year, the Summer Jobs and Internships Fest will take place April 19 at the Catafount.
Before attending a career fair, the first step is getting materials together. Cruz Paul recommends students bring upwards of 50 resumes to the fair in case recruiters want to see their previous experience. Typically, recruiters want students to fill out an online application where they submit their resumes. If this is the case, Cruz Paul says students should take the opportunity to fill it out.
“If they’re referring you to the site to fill out the application then maybe you have a chance” Cruz Paul said.
On the day of the fair, Cruz Paul encourages students to visit the information desk and pick up a booklet. The booklet will allow you to see which employers are attending as well as a map that shows the layout of the fair.
After you make a “gameplan”, Cruz Paul encourages students to visit every table, shake hands and practice your 30-second pitch delivery. During this interaction, tell the recruiters about yourself and what you are looking for in a job/career. Cruz Paul says it’s important to set yourself apart from others in your pitch. To create your 30-second pitch, find the CCPD’s career guide – there you will find an example pitch and how to create your own.
Cruz Paul advises students to take the fair seriously and, if you’re comfortable, go on your own to the tables and interact with the recruiters, instead of with a group of friends. This is another way to set yourself apart.
Cruz Paul says students need to be open to talking with more than just a few tables.
“The problem I see is students come in, they talk to four tables and then they leave.”
She advises that even though you may not have one company in mind, you may be surprised by what they offer.
When you’re at their table, ask recruiters what they offer. If you’re a freshman or sophomore, start thinking about internships. If you’re a senior, ask what kind of job opportunities could be available and how to go about applying.
When thinking about what to wear, Cruz Paul says business casual works best. For seniors hoping to find a job at the event, Cruz Paul advises them to dress more professional.
No matter what year you are at WCU, the career fair is an important step in your journey to graduation. It is important to build connections with recruiters as they are typically the ones returning to the fair in the next semester or next academic year.