The ultimate career fair cheat sheet

With the summer months and graduation rapidly approaching, it’s time you began to seriously improve your networking abilities. When companies want to hire graduates from top universities and colleges, they can often be clued in to potential candidates by professional connections they’ve made over the years. These individuals can make all the difference when you’re applying to jobs after school is over.

Many schools will host career fairs throughout the year, but it’s up to you to take advantage of these opportunities to forge meaningful relationships with recruiters and hiring managers. Over time, they could help put you in touch with executives at companies you’re really interested in working for.

As you prepare yourself to head off into the professional world, here is a networking cheat sheet to guide you along the way.

Focus on fewer events
Although many fairs can be conducted on campus and around the area, you shouldn’t stretch yourself thin and run around to attend every single one. CAREEREALISM suggested that students are better off limiting their attendance to just a few events that include industries they’re truly interested in. Rather than allow yourself to become a prisoner to networking, you should flourish and feel more freedom to pick and choose who you meet. The goal isn’t to shake hands with everyone in the room – you want meaningful, long-lasting connections that will further your career.

Ask the right questions
The Next Web explained that too many candidates for college graduate jobs are putting all of the attention on themselves during events. They walk around the room and are only curious about how they can personally benefit from meeting recruiters and seeing what their companies have to offer. Instead, you should set yourself apart by asking the representatives: “How can I help you succeed?” The recruiters know the role they’re trying to fill and the values and skills they’re looking for in the perfect candidate. Let them know you’re interested in being a valuable team member who collaborates toward success.

Do your research
When you plan to attend a networking event, you should treat it like you’re preparing for an exam. The more you look into potential employers that will be attending the fair, the better you’ll feel walking around and talking to recruiters. Inc. magazine suggested to start your networking homework by determining what you want to achieve by attending the event. You need to know what kind of title you want to hold, where you want the office to be and what kind of responsibilities you’d want in the role. With all of the information in hand, you won’t have a scattered approach to the event.

Join online groups
One of the perks about using a career site such as LinkedIn is that you can join groups of like-minded individuals who are looking to connect and help one another. SureToMeet explained that becoming involved in organizations or online groups can extend your professional reach beyond direct connections. Other members might know managers and be able to put you in touch with them directly. Many schools also have alumni groups, where current and past graduates can communicate openly about potential job opportunities or share professional tips, such as resume advice.

Share your passions
When you walk through the doors of the event, you don’t want to have one sales pitch in mind. This can result in you coming off as boring or formulaic, when your goal is to really stand out from the rest of the potential applicants in the room. According to Entrepreneur magazine, you should leverage your enthusiasm and charisma when talking with managers. You want to stick in their minds long after the event is over – appearing excited and passionate can make you a more memorable candidate.

Remember follow ups
Entrepreneur also explained the importance of following up with recruiters, as the initial introduction should only be the beginning of your networking. You should make a strong effort to collect as many business cards as possible during the event and dedicate time to follow up with a day or two after the event. The messages don’t need to be another speech about how you’re the perfect choice or the right candidate for the job because they’ve heard that from you already. You should reference something you both discussed during the conversation so that he or she can remember who you are.

When companies post jobs online, networking can be the main reason you hear back from hiring managers and recruiters. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and develop valuable connections with other professionals. Once you finish your walk at graduation, you could find a job waiting for you at the end of the road.