Overcoming Intimidation at Career Fairs: Some Tips To Help You Land a Job

The unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since 2000 at 2.1% for those who completed their bachelors and are over the age of 25 (Bureau of Labor Statistics). From a statistical standpoint, now is one of the easiest times in history to land a job. There may be limiting factors students face such as the lack of resources, the right connections, job experience, familial obligations, etc. Despite the fact that factors like those can hinder your ability to even land an interview, there are steps in your control that can propel you in the direction you desire. 

I remember when I was in college, family and peers would constantly ask me, “So what is next?” in terms of my career. I could feel their pressure from their question. But the process of landing that interview, internship or job was far more complex than I initially imagined.

Attending career fairs can be intimidating and daunting. You look around and see students forming lines to talk to recruiters, hands shaking and resumes are being exchanged. You are standing in a room full of people you are competing with for job positions. 

I would specifically attend my university’s finance career fair. I remember walking in there for the first time and not knowing what to expect. I watched other students approach recruiters with great confidence and assertiveness while I only become more intimidated. I did not have family or close friends to guide me through that process and had no connections in the finance industry. After experiencing all this, I then knew how unprepared I was in this situation, especially when I was overwhelmed by the extra stress and anxiety that I felt.

Through experience, I had to learn what would help me in managing those thoughts and emotions. Here is a list of key points that can help ease that feeling of intimidation when attending a career fair:

  1. Self Awareness

As recruiters scan your resume, some common questions you will receive are “Introduce yourself” or “Tell me about yourself.” Make sure you have those answers rehearsed. Talking about oneself can be uncomfortable. Do some quality thinking and practice how you will respond as it can go a long way. Ensure that you can answer any question that may arise from your resume. Keep the responses clear and concise. Think about what makes you unique and how your own values align with the company’s values and why you would be a good addition.

2. Preparation is Key

With preparation comes confidence. First, ensure that your resume is perfected and represents you accurately. Take your time to do some research on companies you are interested in. What does the company do? What job openings are you interested in? Why do they interest you? Knowing this will spike up the chances of landing a job interview. Do your due diligence because most of the time a company’s information can be easily accessed with a simple Google search. Do not approach a recruiter and ask “What does your company do?” Walk in prepared and with a full understanding of what you are looking for. This will not only boost your confidence but most importantly, impress employers. 

3. Networking

Reach out to people in that same company and/or roles you are interested in prior to the career fair. You can do this by leveraging your college’s career center and Linkedin as a resource to find the right connections. Ask specific questions about what they do, company culture or anything you would like to know. A survey by Performance-based Hiring Learning Systems, found that 85% of jobs are filled via networking. Networking prior to the career fair will put you at an advantage by giving you talking points and allow you to ask recruiters more specific questions. 

4. Believe in yourself

One of the biggest mistakes I made when I started attending career fairs was doubting myself and what I can achieve. As a freshman and sophomore, I told myself that those around me were more qualified and I had no chance in competing against them. I did not believe in myself. I later came to learn that if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. It all starts with you. Recruiters will be able to see your insecurities and any hope of landing that interview or job will be diminished.

Getting over my own fear and self doubt took patience. I received a lot of rejection from companies because there were times where I was unprepared and made mistakes along the way. Learning from my mistakes and understanding why I was being rejected was one of those rewarding experiences I went through because I eventually landed a job at my dream company.

Remember that employers go to career fairs to find qualified candidates. They are there with the intent to hire. It is up to every single one of us to understand our goal, be prepared, and take action. Confidence will naturally follow.

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Melisa Zarate

Melisa Zarate

Melisa Zarate is currently an analyst at Goldman Sachs. She grew up in a small town on the Central Coast and attended public schools K-12. As a first-generation college graduate, Melisa attended California Polytechnic State University - San Luis Obispo and earned a degree in Business Administration with a concentration in finance. She is passionate about community, equity and education.

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