Job Fairs: How to Dress, What to Bring, How to Prep
College juniors and seniors are already stressing out about finding the perfect internship or post-grad full-time position. It's a stressful time! It feels like we just moved back to school and now we have to think about what we do when it's time to leave. Without proper preparation and starting the hunt early, it's easy to start falling behind the pack when it comes to looking for jobs and internships.
Last year when I scouted for an internship, I emailed a lot of contacts I had through Daily Dose of Prep. That's one big upside of the blog is gaining so many contacts and references for things like internships. I worked for Rhoback this past summer and I loved every minute of it. I already had a great relationship with the owners and understood the company as a whole. Additionally, because Rhoback knew my brand they were positive on my abilities for the company so there would be no surprises.
This year however, I attended the job fair at JMU. Contrary to popular belief, these events aren't just for seniors. Many juniors take advantage and go scouting for an internship. Most companies are looking for interns at these fairs, but oftentimes don't advertise them. However if they love you, they'll offer you a temporary summer position.
As this being my first career fair, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I asked a few of my friends who went last year and called my dad to gain the perspective of businesses at the fair. All in all, my experience at the job fair was a positive one. I walked away with a few less resumes, a couple of business cards, and a better idea of what I want to do when I leave college.
What to Wear:
Obviously, business casual is the way to go if you're attending a job fair. Men have it easy where all they have to wear is a suit and tie, but women have so many more options. A safe option is always a pair of black slacks, they can be straight or wide leg. If you choose to wear these, make sure they fit well, aren't too tight and are ironed or steamed. Dress these up with a fun button up, silk blouse, or crisp cotton shirt with a blazer.
If you want to wear a skirt, make sure it's not too tight or too short. If you feel like you're always pulling it down or can't sit in it without it riding up it's probably not a good idea to make that the first impression you make on a company. A pencil skirt is a great choice, again as long as it's not too tight.
No outfit is complete without accessories, just make sure to accessorize in a smart way. Leave your statement earrings and hoops for cocktail hour and trade them in for a classic pair of pearl or diamond studs. Keep your necklaces simple too. A small strand of pearls is great, but if you're wearing a really nice floral button up, let the print speak for itself. Rings are great, as long as you don't wear too many and they are simple. As far as a watch goes, stick with something classic. I love the Daniel Wellington watches for occasions like this. If you wear an Apple Watch, for interviews turn both the ringer and vibrate all the way down and change the watch face from a photo of you and your friends to the classic watch style. Make sure you turned all notifications off as well so you don't get distracted.
When it comes to styling shoes, keep it close toed. Nobody needs to see your electric yellow polish, your 6 week old chipped polish, or unmanicured nails. Don't feel like you have to wear high heels either. If you're more comfortable in flats or a formal loafer, that is absolutely acceptable. Just make sure your shoes are in good condition and aren't dirty.
How to Prep:
Of course you need to prepare yourself for occasions like this. Basically, you will walk into a large ballroom and there will be tables set up where companies will send a few representatives to stand there and recruit college kids for interviews. You really have to drive the conversation because not only have these recruiters been doing this for days now, but they know they are wanted by students. College kids are clawing their way past one another to lock down a job. It's your job to sell yourself and your resume to brands and companies.
When preparing for a job fair, make sure you are well versed in talking about yourself and what you're looking for in a job. I know it seems silly to need to practice talking about yourself, but sometimes you just need a little practice. Be ready to give your name and major at the drop of a hat and be able to answer questions based on your extra curricular activities, previous jobs, interests, and experience in x field.
Know that there will be a line of kids behind you vying to talk to these recruiters so it's wise to also prepare how to quickly and efficiently tell a company about you and what you can offer them. Make sure you have a good, strong handshake and can make eye contact. Whenever I talked to anyone new, the first thing I look for is eye contact -- it shows self-assurance and self-confidence.
What to Bring:
You don't need to bring much when you go to job fairs. After all, you have to have one hand free to shake hands with potential employers! First thing to do is to find a place to drop your coat and backpack off. Most job fairs have a bag drop, but when in doubt, store your stuff in a locker at the gym or put it in the library and then make your way to the fair if worse comes to worse. All you will need are several copies of your resume and a folder to keep those and whatever business cards or info sheets booths give you. Make sure to bring a pen so you can make notes to yourself too.
Other than that, the fair will give you a name tag. Don't bring a purse or a bag or your phone. Leave all of that with your things in bag check -- they're unwanted distractions.
Hopefully this post helped all you juniors and seniors prepare for your upcoming job fairs. If there's one thing I can leave you with it's that dressing the part, a firm handshake, and eye contact go a long way at these events. Employers are looking for things that set you apart from the other 300 students attending the fair. Make you talking to them worth their while.