The end-goal of going to college is not only the degree, but the ability to use that degree to launch a career. Penn State Behrend’s Oct. 7 Career and Internship Fair is designed to help students do just that.
Nearly 100 recruiters, including representatives from Berry Global, HBK and Truck-Lite, will meet with students during the career fair, which runs from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. in Junker Center.
The program – one of the largest in Erie County – is open to all currently enrolled students at any college in the county. It is Behrend’s first in-person career fair in more than a year, due to COVID-19.
The opportunity to make a face-to-face connection with a recruiter, even while wearing a facemask and offering fist-bumps instead of handshakes, can be a real advantage for students who are about to enter the job market, said Kyle Danzey, director of career services at Behrend’s Academic and Career Planning Center (ACPC).
“There are better chances to follow-up,” he said. “And they have actual business cards. You don’t really know how important a business card is until now.”
In-person career fairs typically draw more employers, both from business and from the region’s graduate programs. That gives students more options than they might find online, Danzey said.
For recruiters, the in-person fair means an opportunity to see and assess students’ nonverbal skills, including their body language.
Although designed in part for students who will soon graduate and enter the job market, the career fair also can be important for newer students, who can gauge the employment landscape while practicing their interactions with potential employers. Many companies also have early training programs or are looking for interns, co-ops and part-time workers, Danzey said.
“It is really important for first-year students to seek out these opportunities,” he said, “and it helps employers build their pipeline.”
He has three pieces of advice for students who are preparing for the career fair:
Do your homework
Look at the list of attending companies at the ACPC webpage. Find out more about those that interest you and prioritize which recruiters to seek out first. The career fair is as much about interviewing companies as it is about recruiters interviewing students.
“I encourage students to research what the companies do, and to learn about the business’s core values and mission,” he said. “Today’s students are values-driven. They want to find a company they connect with beyond the work.”
Practice, and prepare
First impressions matter, so put your best foot forward. Choose a professional business outfit. Students can visit the ACPC Career Closet to borrow an item of professional clothing.
Prepare – and proofread – a solid resume, printed on good paper. ACPC counselors will provide resume reviews in advance of the fair, with drop-in hours from noon until 4 p.m. Wednesday in Reed 125.
Develop a “brand” statement about yourself and practice your interview skills, such as maintaining eye contact. Students who are unsure of how to greet a recruiter, due to COVID concerns, can take the lead from the recruiter.
Have questions for the recruiter. As an example, you can ask about a current project listed on the company’s website.
“That will show the employer that you are interested in what the company does,” Danzey said.
Follow-up, and follow through
When the career fair ends, your work isn’t over. Take that important contact information on the business card and use it.
“This is how you really make an impression,” Danzey said. “It is more than just a thank-you for the meeting. Add something from your interaction.”
Recap the encounter by including something from your conversation that will help jog the recruiter’s memory. Attach your resume and follow-up on LinkedIn as well.
Most important: Do not give up. You might not find an opportunity right away, but you will know more about the options that are available. Every connection is good practice for future events.
Throughout the process, Danzey said, it is crucial that you be yourself.
“Let your personality shine,” he said. “That is what connects people, and that is what employers are looking for.”