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How to Survive Your First Career Fair In 9 Steps

As fall approaches and the Halloween season draws near, college students delight in haunted houses, pumpkin-spice-everything and classic horror movies. However, for some college students, the biggest spook of all — finding a job after graduation — can be scarier than Pennywise the Clown jumping off the screen of a midnight showing of Stephen King’s IT.

Luckily, Stony Brook’s Career Center ​has compiled a list​ to help students conquer their fears and connect with employers.

Career Fair

1. Make sure your resume is in top shape

If you do not have a resume, begin by creating a rough draft. Once you have a resume, visit ​your school’s Career Center to have it reviewed by a staff member. You should have your resume critiqued early. This will give you time to polish and review it. Remember, the closer it gets to the job fair, the longer the wait to have it reviewed.

​2. Have a plan

Make a list of the companies you would like to meet and prioritize them in order of importance to you. Research is essential; you want to show that you are passionate, knowledgeable and interested in the company.

Make a list of important points and questions for each employer. (HINT: You don’t want to ask questions that you could have answered yourself by doing research beforehand.)

3. Prepare your pitch

Prepare your 60-second commercial. This is a brief introduction to give to an employer when you first meet. While it isn’t necessary to memorize a speech word for word, having an idea of what you will say to employers will enable you to approach them with confidence and poise. Come up with a commercial at least a few days before the event; this will give you time to rehearse it until it sounds natural.

4. Organize the night before

Make sure that you have several copies of your resume printed out. Ideally, you should have your resume printed on high-quality paper. You can purchase this at any store that sells office supplies. Lay out your clothes and pack your briefcase/bag. Business casual or business professional attire is ​recommended.

5. Mentally prepare yourself

Aim to make a great impression, but maintain a positive mindset of outcome-independence to avoid becoming overly anxious.

6. Be confident

You want recruiters to remember you. Even if you aren’t feeling particularly confident on the day of the event, convince others (and yourself!) by using positive body language. Walk upright, speak clearly, project your voice, enunciate and make eye contact with everyone you speak to. Don’t slouch, avert your eyes, fold your arms, or mumble; it will make you seem distracted and unprofessional. Greet the employer with a firm handshake and a smile. Display your interest by being attentive and asking them the questions you have prepared. Make sure to exchange contact information before concluding the conversation with a handshake.

7. Slow down

Give yourself time to calm your nerves. Don’t go to the company at the top of your list first; warm up beforehand by approaching employers lower on your list of priorities. Take breaks if needed. Sometimes it’s very easy to get overwhelmed. Step to the side, collect your thoughts and get ready for the next employer.

​8. Stay focused

If you happen to be waiting in line to talk to an employer, don’t waste valuable time talking to your friends. Stay focused. Read some brochures to learn more about the company while you are waiting. This may give you a few more talking points and help keep you focused. It might also impress the employer.

9. Follow up

Make sure to follow up properly with any employers you spoke to. Whether through email or LinkedIn, reach out to them within 24 hours to solidify the connection you made at the fair. Send a polite, concise message saying that it was a pleasure to speak with them at the event, and that you look forward to hearing from them in the near future. As an alternative, you might consider sending a personalized thank-you note. Either way, following up with an employer is the polite thing to do and will reiterate your interest in the company.

Joanna Durso is Senior Career Counselor at Stony Brook University's Career Center.