Ready For School…But Are You Prepared for the Recruiters?

It’s hard to believe it’s August and back to college for many students. Many of my friends are helping make sure their kids have all the final necessities for school. One thing that often gets overlooked is the preparation for the on-campus job fairs and recruiter sessions that start in early fall. It’s hard to think about a job or internship for next summer when a student has barely finished this one. Students are focused on the new course schedule, roommates and school activities. Many students think that if you want an internship for the summer or job after graduation, you can start searching in March. However, many schools have their big Career Fairs in early September and October. Big companies also invest a lot of effort to recruit early in the year to have their spots set by February for next summer.

What should a student do to get ready and compete for a job or internship?

  1. Start early. On-campus recruiting starts much earlier than you may think. Go online to your career services website NOW! Create an advantage for yourself by blocking your calendar for these important dates before your schedule gets busy. College students who want the summer internship should attend all Career Fairs… even if you are a Freshman. This is really good experience to get exposure with companies and learn what their expectations are for candidates. It’s easy to get distracted and miss the date with new classes and activities. Now is the time to start looking at job postings to see what internships are available.
  2. Prepare. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming to attend these events. A little preparation and planning will go a long way.
    • Search the employers attending ahead of time. Pick 5-10 that you are really interested in and visit their tables or attend their information sessions.
    • Visit career services early to meet with a counselor and get to know their resources. Many schools have a recommended resume template. This is a good place to see what help is available and refine your resume.
    • Print many copies of an updated resume and have a business card to hand out as well. Bring a portfolio to hold your resume, paper and pen. Keep your phone out of sight.
    • Have business attire with you at school – suit, tie, dress shoes for guys, suit, or conservative dress for ladies.
  3. So what do you say? I recently had a student who was trying to get an internship in May for the upcoming summer and was baffled why it was so hard. I asked him if he went to the campus Career Fair and he said “No.” He was overwhelmed at the thought of 15-20 students swarmed around certain employers and he did not know what to say to stand out or compete against his peers. Don’t sweat it at these events. This is for you to learn about companies and what might interest you. This is also a chance to network and make some contacts.

Here the best way to start…introduce yourself, make eye contact, smile and offer a firm handshake. Tell them your name, what you are studying and what you are looking to pursue. Share one thing why you are interested in this company and why your skills may be a good fit. It’s that simple. Practice saying this out loud with a friend so it’s something you have rehearsed– this becomes your elevator pitch.

  1. Follow up. Make sure to request a business card, and always send a thank you note to anyone you meet and request to speak further. Connect with everyone you meet on LinkedIn. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile yet, now is the time to get started.

Here are the dates of Career Fairs at select schools:

Penn State                                        September 13-15

Rutgers                                              September 21-22

Syracuse                                            September 19

Lafayette College                            September 16

University of Delaware                 September 8

Washington University in St. Louis          September 21

University of Michigan                   September 28-29

Go to these events! The goal is not to wait, start now. If you want to learn more about how Next Great Step guides students to career success at career fairs and getting their first job  out of college visit Next Great Step.