Career counselors said students should do research, dress appropriately and prepare pitches and résumés for the upcoming Career Fair.
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Amidst a flurry of recruiters and professionally dressed Cal Poly students, the task of networking and seeking employment at the upcoming Winter Career Fair is considerably daunting. Thankfully, career counselors Charlotte Rinaldi and Seth Igarta have offered insight, answering frequently asked questions about ways to be successful at the Career Fair on Jan. 29 and 30, as well as advice for professional life beyond college.
Mustang News (MN): How should students prepare for the Career Fair?
Career Services (CS): The first thing they need to do is make a plan. They need to know who is coming to the Career Fair — look and see who is coming on what days. They need to look at who is recruiting and what they’re recruiting for, and find those recruiters who are recruiting positions that they’re interested in. They need to try to prioritize who they want to see. Our general networking sessions start at 9:30 a.m. and they go until 1:30 p.m. for students to meet with as many employers as they can. Obviously students have classes, so they need to plan around their schedules. They need to tailor their job search documents to specific employers, especially if they’re recruiting for a position.
MN: What assistance does Career Services offer in helping students prepare for the Career Fair?
CS: We do several workshops. Every Career Fair, we do what we call “Making the Most of the Career Fair.” We do a résumé clinic and we do networking and interviewing workshops to help students prepare for the Career Fair.
MN: How can students find out which companies will be at the Career Fair?
CS: A list is posted on MustangJOBS, which students can access through their Cal Poly Portal. On MustangJOBS, there are postings specifically for the career fair, so they can look and see who is posting positions.
MN: How should students approach employers at the Career Fair?
CS: Students should make sure that they have a strong handshake, give good body language, make eye contact, present employers with a résumé and launch into a tailored pitch.
MN: What is a pitch and what goes into it?
CS: We work with students to develop their pitch — the information about themselves that they want to share with employers so that they can make a good impression. They’ll want to talk about who they are, their major, if they have a minor or concentration, what year they are, some of their projects and some of their work experience, how they are involved on campus, what their interests are … It’s all the things that are generally on a résumé. They’ll also want to discuss what research they’ve done on the employer, which is important because the employer wants to know that they’ve done some research. They need to have an engaging conversation with the recruiter and give them their résumé. They really have to be in the moment with the recruiter because at the end of the day, they’ve been standing there for several hours, asking the same question and hearing the same response. You need to adapt and adjust and really have a positive conversation.
MN: How should students dress for this event?
CS: It’s important to know and research what your employers expect, because some employers will expect students to be very professionally dressed, while others — like one of our prestigious recruiters, Apple Inc. — actually prefer students to look how we call ‘snappy casual,’ where they’re wearing a collared shirt and khakis instead of a suit and tie. Other companies are very much expecting students to be well dressed and very professional in suits and skirts.
MN: How do you find out which employers expect which attire?
CS: You need to do a little research. You want to look at a company’s website. If you know of information sessions or networking sessions that have happened across campus with those companies, you’ll want to go to those. You want to talk to previous students who have been interns or try and connect with alumni.
MN: Should students tailor different versions of their résumé for specific employers?
CS: You really need to look at the job description, and your résumé needs to be fitting the job description. There are basics to tailoring a résumé for every position. Oftentimes it entails tailoring the objective section of your résumé to an employer. Look at the skills listed in the job description and make sure your résumé highlights those skills. Students will usually tailor résumés to companies that they’re most interested in. Some students go through the painstaking process of tailoring their résumés for every employer, which employers tend to like. They like seeing the position they’re recruiting for and their name at the top of a résumé. If you don’t have an idea of what employers you’re interested in, you’ll just want to have a general résumé.
MN: Do students need a cover letter at the Career Fair?
CS: They typically tend not to, but that’s where looking at MustangJOBS is really helpful. If you can apply for a position before you go to the career fair, then you can tell the recruiter you’ve submitted your résumé and cover letter online and you can hand them a hard copy version. However, at the career fair, most recruiters don’t have time to look at a cover letter.
MN: Should students get contact information from recruiters?
CS: Whenever students network with a potential employer, one of the goals should be to get contact information, a business card or an email address, something they can use to follow up.
MN: When should students follow up after applying for a position?
CS: After meeting with a recruiter the day of the Career Fair, a good time to follow up is as early as that afternoon or the next day or early the next week. Students who tend to do the little things as far as connecting and following up with employers see a positive effect.
MN: Who are some of the more prominent employers that will be at the Career Fair?
CS: Apple, Facebook, Yahoo and Microsoft will all be there, as well as some big companies that are very major-specific.
MN: What about students who don’t see positions listed for their major?
CS: If students don’t see positions for them at the career fair, it’s usually because they’re looking at fields that recruit differently than career fairs or they want to work for companies who don’t target Cal Poly. Certain employers use our job fairs to recruit, and others just don’t. The ones that do are usually interested in the bigger programs, like engineering. Liberal arts students, for example, are generally looking for positions that are recruited one at a time and they’re really more personalized recruiting processes than the Career Fair, where there are hundreds of students and they’re hiring 10 to 30 people.
MN: What do you suggest for students who won’t find recruiters for their field at the Career Fair?
CS: We suggest to really focus their search on networking and to meet with their career counselor to make a plan that’s targeted towards the niche in the industry that they want to get into. This way, they can be intentional about reaching out to specific alums and employers and create their materials to be focused in a certain direction — that’s usually how they’ll find the kind of job they really want.
MN: What other advice can you offer students on their quest for jobs?
CS: We find that a lot of our recruiters are using LinkedIn. It’s really important for students to develop a LinkedIn profile and make sure that it is branding them the way they want to be branded and begin using it to build connections to the work that they want to do.
MN: How far in advance should students start their job search?
CS: It’s never too early.