On February 8, Colorado State University will host a job fair for students and alumni from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm in the Lory Student Center main ballroom. The Fort Collins Ram Network, part of the CSU Alumni Association, held a preparation session for alumni Monday night. If you couldn’t join us, here are a few common mistakes to avoid as you prepare for and experience the job fair:
- Lacking focus – companies are going to expect that you know how you plug in to the organization. “I’ll do anything” is not a great sales pitch to a hiring manager. As an alumni, this is one area where you can stand out from traditional-aged students. You know what you want, you know what skills you bring, and you can communicate your focus and dedication.
- Lacking knowledge about companies – Andrea Karapas, Associate Director for Alumni Career Services shared that one of a company’s pet peeves is when people ask, “What do you do?” Conduct research before the fair by visiting www.career.colostate.edu. Click on “job fair” in the middle of the page and then “participant details” to get to a list of employers with hyperlinks to their websites. You want to ask intelligent questions, make a connection, and avoid monopolizing a company’s time.
- Bringing a “generic” resume – prepare resumes and cover letters that speak to each company you are targeting. Research the company, the positions they are hiring for, and what skills you need to highlight in your documents. All of the companies have positions available; it is your job to show them you are qualified!
- Not being prepared to initiate the conversation – Andrea shared that job fair participants will want to be prepared to initiate the conversation. Practice your professional introduction. Consider including why you are interested in the company, examples of how your values or skills fit with the company, and relevant experience. As an alumni, relevant experience is what differentiates you from traditional-aged students! If you are in transition and focusing on relevant skills, make sure you translate them into the employer’s language and understand how they apply to the new industry. Promote these skills, not that you are in transition.
- Appearing unprofessional or unprepared – dust off your suit, you only get one first impression! Andrea recommends job seekers error on the side of being conservative and avoid distracting accessories or clothing. Avoid shuffling resumes and letters to find the correct versions or not being confident in yourself and your approach. Have questions prepared for them and be ready to answer questions about the company, your skills, and why you would be a good fit.
- Standing in line – plan your strategy so you can work the room and get more face time. The ballroom map will be available around the 6th of February so you can plan your route. Avoid coming at the end of the day or during lunch. There will be 120+ companies in attendance, so if you don’t have a plan you may not see that company who would be a great fit.
- Not getting contact information and taking action – show your interest and professionalism by following up; it will make you stand out as very few job fair attendees do it. Get a card and send a hand-written thank you within 24 hours; follow up on anything urgent with an email in addition to the hand-written card. If there was an action you needed to take, write it down and set time aside later that day to get it done.
The Fort Collins Ram Network will be holding more professional development events for alumni. Visit http://events.colostate.edu/calendar.asp?ID=10 for a calendar of all alumni events.