Seniors Andy Horner and Katie Ford respond to their experience at a recent career fair, and offer advice to others who may be attending career fairs soon.
The Clock’s Counting Down…
As college seniors, our time is almost up, and it’s time to prepare for the working world. Luckily, working at career services provides us better insight into “the real world” than most of our peers. We post jobs, schedule appointments for resume help, and are pretty much engrossed in the job world in general. So it should come as no surprise, then, for us to attend a career fair in the Denver Tech Center. However, there were A LOT of things that surprised us.
Dress for Success. That will Impress
First off, we were shocked that a lot of people didn’t know how to dress appropriately for a job fair. Think of a job fair as a series of quick interviews with dozens of potential employers. How would you dress for an interview? You’d probably avoid jeans, t-shirts, shorts, wrinkled clothes, low-cut tops, or similar things. Guess what? We saw ALL OF THOSE. Guys speaking to First Bank looked like they were on vacation, and ladies looked like they were about to head out to the club after talking to the CIA representatives.
In case you were unaware, that isn’t very professional, and certainly won’t help you land the job you want. Fortunately, for every poorly-dressed example, there were two well-dressed examples to take their places, and we can learn things from them. Let’s start off with the ladies.
- Avoid tight, short skirts. You may think it makes you look good, but you can look good and professional without showing 75% of your legs, or run the risk of bending over to pick something up and hearing a Stick to around knee length, and when you sit down, keep it around two inches above the knee. As always, if you think it’s risky, JUST DON’T WEAR IT. Opt for professional looking pants instead.
- Keep makeup to a minimum. Too much warpaint can be a distraction to the employer, and you’d rather have them focus on your skills than your face.
- If you have long hair, keep it clean and pulled back. You want to be able to see them, and they want to be able to see you.
- If you’re going to wear earrings, studs only. No dangling wonders or hula-hoops. Take out any other visible piercings as well. If you MUST leave your nose piercing in, make that a small stud too.
- Save the stilettos for the parties. Wear pumps or flats, and make sure your shoes are close-toed.
- No low-cut tops. Always aim for the more conservative option.
Gentlemen, just because the ladies have a lot of rules doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Here are a few tips to make sure you look professional as well:
- Wear a collared shirt and tie. This isn’t meeting your buddy for lunch at work; this is trying to find a job. Find a clean, unwrinkled button-up shirt, and wear a matching tie. As far as the tie goes, nothing too loud: have a color complimentary to your collared shirt and a simple pattern. Distractions only lower your chances.
- Wear dress pants THAT FIT. Aim for brown, black, beige, olive, or gray pants. If they sag or you wear them low, just start kissing that opportunity goodbye. While we’re talking about pants, wear a belt that matches your shoes. For starters, that fixes you’re sagging problem. Belts add an air of professionalism, and show that you’re serious about seeking that job. It’s a little thing, sure, but every little thing helps.
- Speaking of shoes, wear dress shoes. This may seem obvious, but avoid your sneakers or Air Jordans. We even saw one guy in skate shoes. Seriously? Again, make sure your dress shoes are clean (no scuffs) and they match your belt. Uniform dress shows employers that you’re organized, professional, and you know what’s appropriate for each situation.
- Keep your hair (and facial hair) well groomed. Know the industry that you’re applying for; if they’re high up in the business world, you’ll probably want to cut your hair shorter, and perhaps style it. Also, take out any visible piercings (ears, eyebrows, nose, lips, wherever).
- Make sure your jacket matches the rest of your outfit if you decide to wear one. Again, uniformity is key here. Make sure your jacket isn’t a tent or too small (rrrriiiipppp). When walking around and talking to others, make sure the top button is fastened (or top two if your jacket has three buttons).
Opportunity is Knocking
Now that you know how to wear clothes, we’d like you to know that job fairs are excellent opportunities if you’re looking for a new line of employment (or any employment, for that matter). At the very least, you can connect with many new potential employers, and employers ALWAYS remember the candidates who follow-up with them. Information never hurts anyone in this scenario.
At fairs, you’ll be getting a lot of information, usually because there’ll be a wide variety of employers looking for new talent. True, some fairs are designed for certain fields (a health-professions fair, for example), but you’ll still be touching base with a handful of different companies, usually competitors. Going into fairs, don’t expect to hit it off with every company; just like you’re looking for that dream job, they’re looking for that dream employee that’s the perfect fit. Aim for 5-7 stronger connections (perhaps industries you’ve researched before), and if anything else comes up, you’ve already met your goal and can feel comfortable in that.
Furthermore, getting your name out there is good experience for opportunities outside the fair. People give each other business cards on elevators, in airplanes, basically anywhere in public ALL THE TIME. Building these conversational skills and getting more comfortable giving your card to possible connections will not only make you memorable, but will prepare you for those unexpected moments where opportunity can arise.
Business Cards: The Resume, Rethought
Speaking of which, business cards are becoming a more popular, convenient way of sharing information as opposed to resumes. Growing up, we were always told to bring a copy of resumes to interviews or employer-related functions. While that still holds true, and you should still bring a resume to fairs and interviews, you might want to consider adding a business card to your arsenal. Companies are starting to favor business cards to resumes in public scenarios to gain your contact information while avoiding forms of bias. Also, if you have a federal resume or a fairly detailed one, most of your personal information (address, parts of your S.S. number) will be on that sheet; do you really want to just give that information away?
There are a ton of templates online on “How to fill out a resume,” and most Career Services offices (including Regis University’s) would be happy to help you fine-tune yours. However, since business cards are a bit of a newer trend, here are a few tips we have on designing your own:
- Make your name the focal point of the card. At the end of the day, that’s what you want employers to remember first.
- Put plenty of contact information, especially phone number and email. Add your LinkedIn account if you have one. DON’T put your personal address on it (a company address would be fine).
- Add your current job title if you have one. If you don’t, create a title that focuses on your expertise(s) in the workforce. Let people know what you’re about; you don’t want someone calling for a lawyer if your skills lie with architecture.
- Add a simple design and some color to make your card pop-out. A company logo and colors would be great for this. If you’re not working for a company (or making this independently), add a little bit of simple yet sophisticated imagery so you stand out from all the blank white index cards that nobody cares to look at.
- Finally, this may seem a little obvious, but use solid card stock when making the business cards.
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
We’ve given you a lot of advice today, and combined with the fact that job fairs are literally going around and introducing yourself to strangers for a solid hour, it may seem a tad overwhelming. We hope you take our advice seriously, but if there’s one piece of advice we hope you remember from this, it’s RELAX. The employers are just as eager to meet you as you are to introduce yourself to them. They aren’t trying to pick you apart while you talk, but they’ll be trying to get a better understanding of who they’re talking to. That means they’ll be looking at your positive sides as much as (if not more than) your flaws. They’ll be trying to see if you’re the right fit for their company, and you should equally see if their company is the right fit for you.
Andy’s LinkedIn Profile: www.linkedin.com/in/theandyhorner
Katie’s LinkedIn Profile: www.linkedin.com/in/kford