For some students, the mere mention of the upcoming career fair sends a nervous shiver down their spines. For others, it holds the promise of great opportunity. The reality is, the fair is for everyone. Whether students are upperclassmen or freshmen, all it takes is a little preparation to make the most of this networking resource.
The Fall Career Fair is a two-day event occurring Wednesday and Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Recreation Center. This year, 213 companies are attending, offering a total of 490 job positions.
The sheer amount of opportunities at the career fair makes it important for students to plan ahead, Cal Poly career counselor Carole Moore said.
“Have a goal in mind,” she said. “For example, are you interested in an internship, a summer job or a career position?”
Determining a goal can help narrow down students’ focus even more to the types of companies they are interested in meeting with.
“Have top five employers that you are really interested in meeting with,” Moore said. “If you can, craft a résumé for them.”
Changing the focus and objectives of your résumé to fit with the company is a way to stand out and look prepared, Moore said.
Students can find a list of companies and job descriptions on Mustang Jobs, Career Services event coordinator Soukita Thipsouvanh said.
Once logged into Mustang Jobs, students can click on the events tab and then on “2012 Fall Career Fair.” The company name, list of positions they are offering and day they will be at the career fair are on that front page.
“We encourage you to RSVP to the event,” Thipsouvanh said. “You can then look through the list and send your résumé in advance to specific companies that interest you.”
Students can accomplish this by clicking on the “express interest” button to the company they are interested in, as long as their résumé is already within the Mustang Jobs system, she said.
Students can also input multiple résumés into the system and select which one to send to the company in advance.
Even though students know the exact positions being offered by companies, they should not be discouraged if they do not find what they are looking for right away, Moore said.
“Students do not need to limit themselves,” Moore said. “If a company is looking for only engineers, they have all different types of positions within it even though that may not be what they are specifically recruiting for.”
Moore also recommends not limiting oneself to only big name companies. Once students finish with their goal companies, go around to other smaller companies.
“There’s a lot of little companies with no lines,” Thipsouvanh said. “That doesn’t mean they won’t have a really good opportunity for you that you might like.”
Doing research ahead of time about the companies helps prepare for your résumé and for talking points during the time you meet with the employer, Moore said.
“A lot of the time employers can get tired of repeating the same thing over and over,” she said. “It is hard to talk about your company to every 200 students that come by.”
Instead, tell them what you already know about their company and show genuine interest in what they are working on, she said. This communicates to the employer where the student’s interests and the company’s interests align.
After talking with the employer, try to get their business card, she said. This ensures being able to write them a follow-up email, thanking them for their time and reiterating interest in their company.
“If you cannot get one, we have all their business cards in the employee relations office, room 113 in the Career Center,” she said.
Some employers also hold interviews in the afternoon after the open networking session to maximize their time on campus, she said. Students should try to get onto their interview schedule if they have time.
Even if students do not end up walking away with a job or internship, the career fair can still be a valuable experience, biological sciences junior Morgan Aspelund said. Aspelund attended the career fair last winter but did not end up receiving a position.
“I went for the experience of having a professional conversation with an employer,” Aspelund said. “Going in, I was definitely nervous about it. I wanted to make sure I could practice in a situation like that.”
Biomedical engineering sophomore Josh Balland attended the fall career fair last year as a freshman. He received a call back, but was not able to intern because the company was only interested in juniors and seniors.
“It is beneficial to attend a job fair no matter what your age or qualifications are because it is extremely important to learn what companies are looking for as soon as you can so you can get ahead,” Balland said.