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Kristen Morse / Gavel Media

The Gavel's Guide to Navigating the Career Fair Frenzy

Whether you’re a junior seeking a summer internship or a senior looking for a full time position as the end of your BC career approaches, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Without previous experiences, you may not know how to write an attention-grabbing cover letter, what to include on your resume, or the best way to navigate those overwhelming career fairs.

According to Rachel Greenberg, the Director of Career Education and Strategy at the Career Center, the first step is to evaluate where you stand before you begin to move on to the next step. Some students already know what field they want to work in, while others have no clear direction. For any students who feel completely lost on how to begin at all, the Career Center offers specific appointments called “Getting Started.” These appointments are “zero judgment” zones to help students evaluate what the realistic first steps are for starting their career journey. 

Once students have focused their search a little bit and have a sense of what they’re looking for, the company search begins. This begins by visiting the Career Center website for their calendar of events to determine if there are any upcoming career fairs or networking events in the field of interest. Another step that the Career Center recommends is connecting with alumni or other professionals in the field. Students can attempt to initiate these conversations on their own via platforms like LinkedIn, or they can visit the Career Center for guidance on how to reach out. The conversations provide more information on the field and on specific companies that students may be interested in applying to, which can help tailor application materials and provide more interesting, specified things to say about the company. Additionally, the personal connection may give you an extra boost when it comes to locking down the position.

“When somebody knows you and is impressed by you, that’s going to be very helpful,” Greenberg says of the importance of connecting with individuals in the field.

As your research progresses, it is important to ensure that it is a focused search. Greenberg says that one of the biggest mistakes that students make is conducting a disorganized or somewhat careless search.

“It’s really important, and one will be more successful, if they’ve taken the time to figure out what they want to do,” she said. She emphasizes the importance of self reflection, thinking realistically about your strengths, and being honest about what you want from your professional life. Not only will this make the search easier, but it will make the applications more convincing. “When you have that focus you can better communicate to an employer that that is a job that you want and why,” she said.

A related mistake that students often make is not tailoring application materials. It is important to customize cover letters and resumes to demonstrate commitment and interest to that specific position.

As the job or internship search progresses, it may be useful to take advantage of the Career Center events hosted in your areas of interest. Some of the biggest events to take advantage of are the Career Fairs. In order to maximize the opportunity, however, it is crucial to be prepared first. First, before every Career Fair, the Career Center offers preparation workshops to prepare students to speak with employers. Second, researching who will be at the fair and who you want to talk to can streamline a seemingly overwhelming event. Third, learning a little bit of background on the companies that interest you will give you something specific to talk about and make you seem professional and interested. Fourth, preparing and rehearsing how you will introduce yourself is key. Greenberg recommends considering the question, “What is going to be the most important thing this employer will hear about you?” Suggestions for opening bits include your name and major, some brief information about you, some relevant previous experience, and why you’re interested in that company. Your introduction should always end with a question, which will begin a dialogue between you and the recruiter. On the day of the fair, it may be helpful to begin with a couple companies that you are interested in but that aren’t your top choice to get warmed up and alleviate nerves.

If these tips on your job or internship search have stressed you out as much as they have helped you, this is considered fairly normal. Greenberg refers to the job search as a “skill,”and it’s a skill that’s basically new for everyone at this point of our lives. 

“It’s a skill, so like any other skill, it gets easier with practice... Yes it can be scary, but pushing yourself a little bit outside of that comfort zone is just so valuable, and that’s how we make progress and get better at things.”

She also warns students not to necessarily expect perfection or acceptance the first time around. Rejection is a part of the application process for “almost everybody” and it is “in no way personal." 

“Stay positive and take care of yourself along the way,” she advised. She noted that it is important for students to take the time to re-energize and regain their positivity when they begin to feel down or frustrated in their search. However, she also urges students not to get locked into the expectation that the first job out of college has to be the perfect job.

“Some people get their 'dream' job right out of school. Most people don’t. But they’re working toward it... There’s no specific timeline. It’ll come together.”

Regardless of where you are in the job or internship search—whether you’re getting started, you’re trying to reach out to alumni, or you’ve hit the wall of frustration—the Career Center can be a valuable resource in this new, exciting, and challenging time.

Lastly, Greenberg advises that doing something is always better than doing nothing. “We want people to come in, to come to our events, to come to the office, and find a way to engage with us. Especially if they’re feeling unsure of where to begin. We don’t want anyone out there floundering and not coming in because they think they need to know something before they come in.”

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