The Fall Northeastern Career Fair on October 2 is a new experience for many international students (and for domestic students as well). For some people, the concept of “new” is exciting. For others, “new” is intimidating and can feel uncomfortable. It’s important to note that being uncomfortable is okay– it’s an indication that you are probably encountering a situation that will contribute to your personal growth. A great way to eliminate some pre-career fair jitters is to prepare as much as possible. Here are the five things that you should know as an international student attending the Career Fair:
1.) General Logistics—The Career Fair this year will have over 250 employers with companies like Microsoft , Mathworks, and Akamai Technologies in attendance and will take place from 12-4PM in the Cabot Cage and Solomon Court. Furthermore, there were over 2500 students in attendance last year, and we’re expecting the same attendance for this year. This means that the career fair will be CROWDED! And lines, especially for very popular companies like Microsoft, will be many people long. What does this mean for you? Come to the career fair sooner rather than later and come prepared with a list of companies that you want to speak with. If you don’t, you may be shut out from speaking with an employer or you may feel too overwhelmed to speak to anyone.
2.) Do Your Research on Companies Open to Hiring International Students-The list of organizations attending the career fair is here. Also make sure to download the 2014 Career Fair brochure–there will be no hard copies of the brochure at the fair. The brochure includes a map of the employer table numbers and where they’re located, and also includes a list of employers who have indicated that they are open to hiring international students. Be sure to become familiar with that list! Also do some general research on the company. The company website, Hoovers, Glassdoor, and Linkedin are all great resources to use when researching.
3.) Prepare Your Pitch— When I was an undergraduate student, I did not go to any of the career fairs my university held (ironic, right?). This was because I was uncomfortable with what to say to an employer and I didn’t know what to do when I got there. Make sure you practice your pitch, or your thirty second commercial about yourself. This “pitch” would be an appropriate answer to the nebulous “Tell me about yourself” question, or can give the employer a general understanding of your background and what caused you to be interested in their company. Appropriate information for the pitch would be your name, major, skills, background, and interest in either the company/position. To make a great impression, be sure to let them know that you’ve done research on their company by asking intelligent questions. The key here is to be able to ask them other questions besides “What does your company do?”. That’s not going to impress anyone! And don’t forget to practice, practice, practice!
4.) Dress Appropriately- Many people feel unsure about what to wear for the fair. A black, grey, brown (neutral) suit and tie is appropriate for males and a skirt suit or pants suit with sensible heels is appropriate for females. Be sure to not wear too much cologne or perfume, or to wear any flashy jewelry or makeup. You want them to be listening to what you SAY, not what you look or smell like.
5.) Conduct Yourself Professionally at the Career Fair—This means respecting employers and their time by keeping discussions brief and not keeping them after 4PM. No one leaves the Career Fair with a job, so your main goal is to make an impression and receive a business card to follow-up with them later. Also, do not bring food/drinks into the Career Fair–they are not permitted and it makes it difficult to shake hands with employers. Lastly, don’t go “shopping” at the fair. I know many employers come with cool little gadgets, but don’t make those freebies your main focus for attending the career fair!
Remember, the more prepared you are for the fair, the better you equip yourself to navigate it successfully. Also, don’t forget to check out our Career Fair Success Tips Panel on September 30th. Representatives from Gorton’s, Liberty Mutual, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Constant Contact will tell you exactly what they like to see from students at Career Fairs. Remember, no matter what happens, the career fair is a great experience that can prepare you for the job search process and networking after graduation. Enjoy it!
Ashley LoBue is an Assistant Director at Northeastern Career Development. A Boston College graduate, Ashley has over 4 years of experience working in higher education and is a proponent for international and experiential education. Ashley also enjoys binge-watching HGTV and aspires to be like the Property Brothers, Drew and Jonathan, as a possible secondary career.