Career fairs can be intimidating beasts — swarms of people all competing for limited time with companies, booths upon booths spanning organizations you’ve never even heard of and just the general pressure of finding a viable career in these precious moments. It’s a lot! To help mitigate this daunting challenge, we have compiled a set of guidelines and tips to maximize the career fair to your own advantage. Whether you’re a seasoned attendee or a newcomer, or whether you’re in STEM or you’re a double major in the College of Letters and Science, there are a few general ways to prepare and approach the fair that anyone can use. Start printing your resumes and get ready to secure that summer internship!
The first step to approaching a career fair is to decide which one you’re interested in. UC Berkeley offers a number of specialized fairs, including for STEM, business and public service. Beyond industry specifics, you can also check Handshake, the campus’s online recruitment platform, to check which companies will be in attendance. This can help with questions you might prepare about workplace culture, salary and hiring timelines.
This rule, however, is a little imperfect — if you aren’t sure about your exact career interests, the career fair can also be a good opportunity to see what might be available and browse. There may also be crossovers that you might not have considered, such as business opportunities at tech companies or software developing at a nonprofit. Just be prepared to match the quantity of your career fair perusing with your quality of preparation.
And that brings us to a second point of preparation: making sure you’re ready to interact with the company representatives who are your points of contact with a potential job. A fairly standard piece of advice is to bring multiple copies of your resume to give to representatives. Do this in advance in order to avoid any printer problems and in case of any last-minute edits you might notice. It may also be helpful to bring a folder to keep your resumes organized and crinkle-free.
In addition to resumes, bring materials in order to take notes. This could be either a notebook and pen or your phone. Be wary, though — you don’t want to get caught in front of a potential employer and have your battery die as they’re passing on contact information.
Since the career fair goes from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., most attendees will be in the midst of classes. The career fair also takes place in the Kleeberger Field House in the Recreational Sports Facility, which could be a good trek if you’re in section in Etcheverry Hall. In this case, it will be important to be ready to go as soon as you get there. The fair is often busiest at lunch, so if possible, plan around that or be prepared to work around a crowded atmosphere.
Career fairs generally don’t have assigned dress codes and are a more casual atmosphere than other networking opportunities. Most people will also be coming from classes, which isn’t exactly the best time to be wearing a suit. It’s a good rule of thumb to wear something semi-professional — think of a casual Friday in the office. The campus Career Center doesn’t prescribe exact attire but suggests business casual.
The Career Center also advises having a “career pitch” prepared before coming to the fair. This is a way to present yourself beyond your resume in front of a potential employer, to add dimension to your professional profile and to showcase what you could bring to the company. This is almost an in-person cover letter, so take some time beforehand to outline things you might include. These details could be extracurriculars, projects you’ve worked on or anything that may be relevant to your goals. Don’t get too formulaic, though — this pitch should be more of a template that you can use while talking to a variety of different companies.
After the career fair comes the second phase of networking: After receiving contact information from company representatives, you can follow up with a thank-you. This is a way to continue the connection you made with the representative, solidify yourself as a potential employee and give the employer your own contact information. This isn’t necessarily a direct route to a job, but it’s a good way to make the most out of your talks with potential employers.
As you take to this week’s career fairs and beyond, keep these tips in mind. The fair is first and foremost a place for you to learn and prepare for a career beyond campus, so make the most of it!