I got the chance to talk to Ryan Kahn of Dream Careers, Inc. and MTV’s Hired, and he gave me some insightful advice on how to make the most out of your upcoming career fair. No matter what stage of job or internship searching you are at, use these tips to network to your fullest capacity.
Kahn says that the best way to stand out to employers is to have an interesting story or unique background that you can share with them. For example, if you went abroad and studied something in France relevant to the company’s goals, you should let them know!
Find something that you are proud of and excited about. Since he knows that I have interviewed some influential people on blogs, Kahn suggested that is something I would bring up if I was talking to an employer in a public relations or journalism field.
Dress the Part
You have to dress for the industry with which you will be interacting. If you are going for finance, for instance, a suit and tie is fitting. For the entertainment industry, however, something that Kahn calls “business chic”—trendy but appropriate—is most suitable.
Study the companies you’re interested in and find out how they dress on a daily basis. Employees at tech start-up companies may wear t-shirts and flip-flops to work. This does not mean that you should wear a t-shirt and flip-flops to your career fair; it does mean that you probably don’t need to wear a full suit. If you can’t figure out what the proper attire may be based on a company’s website, call the receptionist. Explain that you are going to see company representatives at a career fair and you are curious to know what employees wear at a typical day at the office.
One way that you can show the employers you interact with that you are prepared to connect with them is to have your own personal business cards to hand out. They can include your name, email, phone number, and area of interest. This way, if you hand each person you talk to your business card, they will have something to look at later when they are trying to remember the students they met. Kahn also notes that if you want to get more creative to further stand out, include a picture or create a logo so that you can start branding yourself.
The thought of walking up to complete strangers and trying to sell yourself can be daunting, but try not to over think it. Just walk up to someone and start talking. If you have no idea what to say, keep it short and sweet. Start with, “Hi my name is_______________, I’m interested in _______________ and I’d love to hear more about your company.” Kahn likened this introduction to asking a girl out on a first date: intimidating, but really not so bad. Try to get in a real conversation. Find the happy medium between too casual and too stiff, and just have fun with it.
The same night that you attend the career fair, send emails thanking the people who took the time to talk to you. Kahn recommends finding a commonality between you and each person with whom you speak so that you will have something personal and memorable to include. For example your email might read: “I enjoyed speaking with you tonight. I still can’t believe we’re from the same hometown (or both played tennis in college, or whatever other fun fact you have in common).” As soon as you walk away from each person, quickly jot down on the back of his business card what you talked about and what your commonality is so that you can refer back to the cards when you are writing your emails later on.
Above and Beyond
Kahn’s “secret weapon question:” “I’d love to be in your shoes one day, how did you get there when you were my age?” Kahn points out that by asking him to think back to his college experience, you are helping to level the field. When you get someone to open up about his history, you are creating the opportunity to find those personal connections that you want to be able to include in your thank you email.
Finally, Kahn’s motto is “Network is net worth.” The more people you can talk to, the more opportunities for success you will create for yourself. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and go up to as many people as possible.
Amanda Gallucci is a junior at Providence College in Rhode Island, studying English and Business. She is actively involved in Dance Club, Social Justice Advocacy, Student Alumni Association and is a member of NSCS. She hopes to one day land a marketing position in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @agalluch.