This Thursday, January 23rd, from 10am to 3pm marks the Spring Career Fair. Maybe you attended the Fall Career Fair last semester, maybe this is your first career fair ever, or maybe you’ve been to six and are a pro. Maybe the kid in your Biology class who wears sweats every day is suddenly in a suit and carrying a briefcase and you haven’t looked at your resume in three months. Regardless of your career fair experience level, they can be daunting and frankly overwhelming.
While I in no way consider myself to be a career fair expert, I have been to quite a few at this point. Because they are intimidating, it can be very easy to shy away from them altogether. I know many students who have just walked in and walked out ten minutes later, which brings me to my first point: There is a difference between attending a career fair and actually utilizing it. There are plenty of things I wish I had known in my earlier years of attendance, but here are four that I think are especially helpful for effectively navigating a career fair.
- You don’t need to be dressed for an interview, but do look professional.
If you’re someone like me who schedules out every minute of their day, it can be a pain to wear business attire all day because you know you won’t get the chance to go home and change. From my experience, you really don’t need to be in a full-on power suit, but it is a good idea to dress appropriately. That could just be a pair of nice pants and a professional shirt. You’re there to have professional interactions, so you should look prepared for that.
- Bring some hard copies of your resume and don’t be afraid to offer them to people.
It can feel a bit unnatural to offer someone your resume, but it’s good to remember that that’s why these recruiters are here. They’re used to it, even expecting it sometimes. If you’re having a good conversation with someone about their company or work, asking “Can I give you my resume?” is very normal. Even if you’re not entirely sure it would be a good fit for you, handing over your resume is still polite and may even serve you later on in ways you don’t expect.
- Be open to talking to people from all different kinds of companies and organizations.
There are a lot of different entities represented at the Career Fair, from software companies to government agencies to clothing brands. You may walk around and say to yourself, “I’m a Public Policy major, why would I even try to talk to a software company?” but you’d be surprised. A lot of companies have positions available for all majors and backgrounds, and you won’t know what’s there until you ask. Some recruiters will even ask your major and talk you through if they have positions for which you could be a good fit. Regardless, you’re there to make connections, so there’s no harm in branching out of your usual interests to see what’s out there.
- Check out the Career Center’s Backstage Pass before the actual Career Fair.
If it’s your first time attending the Career Fair, Backstage Pass is an amazing resource. Backstage Pass allows students to ask last-minute questions and gain advice from Career Center advisers before walking into the fair itself. Check out this video from Backstage Pass last semester:
For a full list of company profiles, use the Duke Digital Career Fair Guide -set up for mobile.
The Career Fair is an incredible opportunity for students of all years and backgrounds.
Take advantage of it, even if only for 20 minutes between classes!