So, you’re a first- or second-year student and you’ve heard it’s important to attend one of the many career fairs offered at UGA. But why? You may be thinking, “I have no idea what I want to do for a career, so why should I attend a career fair when I’m still figuring out what I want my future to look like?” This is a valid question which deserves exploration.
One important reason you should attend a career fair is to make connections with individuals and/or companies you’re interested in, or explore jobs which you’re thinking about pursuing. Networking with recruiters and hiring managers can provide amazing insight into what it takes to help you get where you want to go and what you can do early in your undergraduate experience to become competitive for positions in the future. Such networking can also provide you with an opportunity to explore internships, part-time jobs, or other ways to positively interact with the organization.
Ask the Right Questions
Additionally, these interactions can provide you with an opportunity to ask questions concerning what successful applicants can do to separate themselves from other applicants. Helpful questions to consider asking include “How did you become involved with this organization?”, “What do you enjoy the most about working here?”, “What does success look like in XYZ position?”, and “If you were a first or second year student, what would you be doing to prepare for a career as a (list job title)?” Please be aware that there may be many other students wanting to talk with the recruiter to whom you are speaking, so pick one or two questions and make them count.
We must also be careful with what kinds of questions we ask. For instance, please avoid asking salary questions as this is personal information, and it is impossible to foresee what the market might be paying for this job by the time you reach graduation and prepare to enter the workforce. Additionally, asking for salary information may lead to a negative first impression, where the recruiter might assume you are interested more in money than in the organization. Instead, consider asking if the company has a tuition reimbursement program, which may help you pay for some if not all of the remainder of your schooling. You should ask for the recruiter’s business card to follow-up with additional questions, thus securing not only contact information but also assuring the correct spelling of their name.
Armed with the information you have gained from this experience; you can then move forward with more clarity and confidence toward your projected career outcomes. By knowing what a company wants from its applicants, you can use this information to be strategic in determining which courses to take. For instance, if you are choosing between a class that simply checks off a requirement towards graduation or one that can build your skill set for your intended career while also meeting that graduation requirement, the choice should be obvious.
We frequently hear the saying that “knowledge is power”. By attending career fairs, you can gather knowledge concerning a variety of career possibilities and make informed decisions as to what you can do to arrive at a career of your choice upon graduation. The opportunity to be introduced to companies, their expectations, and the possible careers they offer can be a defining experience for you to chart a successful course through your remaining undergraduate years. Welcome aboard!