One great reason to be enrolled in campus or online college during the spring semester is because that’s when colleges roll out their annual spring career and internship fairs. These events are where colleges connect their students with the working world, an exercise that the rest of us in the real world pay dearly for when we’re looking for jobs.

But is it enough to just show up at a job fair and expect to get more offers than a prom queen at the spring formal? The answer is no. The most important thing you can do in terms of getting the most out of job fairs is preparation, according to Most students (and post grad adults, for that matter) think all you have to do is show up with a resume, chat up the recruiter, and then wait for the job offers to come rolling in. Not so, according to recruiters who make a living attending these events. The job seekers who make the biggest and best impressions at job fairs are those who do their homework before they even step one foot into a booth.

So to help you successfully navigate spring career and internship season, here are three steps that are sure to give you a leading edge at a job fair.

  1. Preparation
  2. Every business has a website so at the very least visit the websites of the companies that are participating in your job fair. Study up on key staff, company history, employee programs, company contacts, annual reports, and any other pertinent information (like the company’s philanthropic endeavors or future plans). Do the same for the industry in which you’re interviewing by reading trade journals, business magazines, and news reports. Use this information to narrow your search down to the top 10 companies you’d like to work for and make appointments with them first.

    Make sure your resume doesn’t look like seventh grader wrote it. Use proper grammar, punctuation, and keep the flowery, verbose prose to a minimum. Appearances matter, so follow standard resume format.

    Prepare a brief pitch about yourself and practice it until you can confidently rattle it off without breaking a nervous sweat. Get your friends to listen to it and take their feedback into consideration. Look at your pitch as a one-minute commercial about yourself where you have 60 seconds or less to make a favorable impression.

  3. Day of Job Fair
  4. Most importantly don’t dress like some hayseed who just got off the farm. Show up on time, well groomed in clean, appropriate business attire. Men, put on a suit and tie, and women, wear a matching skirt and jacket or pantsuit. When in doubt error on the conservative side. Ladies, forego the heavy perfumes and guys, please, leave your dorky ball caps at home.

    Shake hands when you meet someone and look them in the eye when you speak. Lead with your one-minute commercial, but don’t try to dominate the conversation, and don’t go over your allotted time. Answer questions briefly and honestly when asked. Leave your resume (and business card, if you have one) and don’t forget to shake hands again upon your exit.

  5. Afterward
  6. Follow-up with a thank you card or email no later than one week after the job fair (the sooner, the better). Be sure to say that you met at the job fair and mention something you talked about that will make the recruiter remember you. Ask that they consider you for future employment opportunities and that you look forward to hearing from them soon.

    Spring college career fairs are one of the best ways to find your first job. Even though most colleges offer career placement services year round, the spring semester career fair is usually the biggest. So write your resume, get your suit dry cleaned, and turn up your charm. Spring break could be your lucky break, in terms of getting a job.

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