Student preparation is key for career fair success

· 5 min read

Student preparation is key for career fair success

Registration open for spring events, which begin Feb. 8
students talking at career fair
Craig Chandler University Communication
A marketing student talks with recruiters at the fall 2021 Career Fair.

Career fairs at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln provide students with an unmatched opportunity to have quality one-on-one interactions with some of the top companies.

To make the most of the opportunity, Huskers should invest their time in advance preparation, said Tracy Lungrin, director of Career Services.

“When students prepare for career fairs, they are more likely to make a great first impression on employers, which in turn prepares them for their future careers,” Lungrin said.

At career fairs, such as the in-person fairs that begin Feb. 8, hundreds of employers are eager to speak with students in hopes of finding potential interns and full-time employees. To stand out among their peers, students should prepare by registering for the fair, fine tuning resumes, selecting appropriate attire and researching companies.

Registering for a fair

To begin career fair preparation, students need to register via Handshake. This information helps employers and organizers provide the best experience possible for students. Students who register will also get exclusive access to pre-fair tips and tricks leading up to the fair.

Preparing a resume

Resumes are a snapshot of who the student is-it requires frequent updates, and sometimes tailoring to specific companies and positions. Students should print copies of their resume to give to employers. View a detailed guide on writing resumes here.

What to wear

Different industries have different attire standards. “Not everybody needs to wear a suit, but nobody should be in sweatpants,” Lungrin said.

Individual college career coaches can give students guidance on what style of dress is appropriate for their preferred industry.

Students in need of professional attire can attend one of the upcoming Husker Suit-Up or Lavender Closet professional attire events.

Husker Suit Up is run by Career Services and JCPenney and allows any university student, staff, faculty or alumni to receive a 30% discount on select professional apparel. The discount can be used online or in-store from Jan. 30 through Feb. 6.

Lavender Closet is run by Career Services and the university’s LGBTQA+ Center. Any Nebraska student will be able to stop by the pop-up and pick up gender-affirming professional attire from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily, Feb. 1-3.

Researching companies

Company research will help students make the most of their time once at the career fair by knowing which companies they want to talk to, and what questions to ask.

Career Services has made company research easy by listing companies that will be in attendance, organized by career focus.

The career focus areas are designed to help students think about potential industries they’d like to work in, rather than their current majors.

“If you’re a student, think about the industries you’d be interested in working in, and look at the companies within those industries that will be coming,” Lungrin said.

Career focus areas are a new addition to the 2021-22 in-person career fairs. The idea came from the virtual fairs that replaced in-person fairs due to COVID-19.

Rather than having large, broad-focused days like in years past, the career fair is divided into four smaller days focusing on specific industries to help students and employers get more quality interactions.

The spring career fair is the second career fair to be in-person since the onset of COVID-19. Employers and students were eager to return to the in-person format, and Lungrin said that being face-to face with recruiters is a unique opportunity.

“You can’t replace the value of meeting somebody in person. Sometimes this is the only way to get an in-person connection with some recruiters, especially if it’s a really competitive company,” Lungrin said. “There’s also a famous theory in career services called happenstance, and there are plenty of happenstance stories that happen at a career fair. A lot of times a student will come in thinking that they want to talk to these three companies, and then they just happen to talk to one or two others that weren’t on their radar, and all of a sudden a great opportunity comes.”

Lungrin recommends that students of all majors and school years attend career fairs to learn career development skills such as how to introduce themselves and how to ask good questions. They’ll also be building relationships with potential employers.

“The fact that employers are paying to come to our fair means that they’re planning on hiring our students at some point,” Lungrin said.

Even if students aren’t actively pursuing a job or internship, they should seize the opportunity to network with employers, so that when the time comes to secure a job or internship, they can use the relationships they built to find the right position.

“Make this an opportunity for yourself,” Lungrin said. “Research the people that are coming, challenge yourself to introduce yourself to two or three people and have career conversations to improve your communication skills and your ability to sell and talk about yourself.”

Huskers can learn more about career fair preparation online, and share their job, internship and experiential learning experiences here. Education majors can attend an education-specific fair on Feb. 8 and locate preparation resources here.

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