The LAS & ACES Virtual Career Fair takes place on Thursday, Sept. 24, from 8am to 5pm (though not all employers may be there the entire time).
Why Go to a Career Fair?
- An obvious reason to go is because that’s where jobs and internships are.
- A less obvious reason to go: practice. A career fair is a low-stakes opportunity to practice presenting yourself to employers, asking good questions, having a professional conversation. Worst case scenario: you exit the chat room after an uncomfortable encounter and get on with your life. Those awkward moments often result from nervousness and inexperience, and these conversations get easier with practice.
How Do You Prepare for a Career Fair?
- Register in advance for the event at https://go.illinois.edu/ACES_LAS_Virtual.
- Revise your resume and upload it to CareerEco when you register.
- Identify some employers you know you want to talk to. You can find a list of the employers who are looking for all majors, humanities majors, and business and communication majors here. (Why do we include business and communication? Employers are are seeking skills and motivation–not transcripts. They’ll be interested in humanities majors who want to use their communication and problem-solving abilities in business-relevant ways.)
- Prepare some talking points (more on this below).
- Dress for the camera. Many conversations will be audio only, but it’s good to be prepared in case you’re invited to a video chat: a collared shirt + necktie or blouse/sweater and a blazer is always correct. If you don’t have office-wear ready to hand, find a suitable professional approximation. Avoid anything with logos, baggy/worn necklines, or wrinkles. Even though everything from the waist down is offscreen, it can be psychologically helpful to be wearing office-appropriate pants or a skirt (and you’ll be prepared if some unforeseen event requires you to stand up). The camera can distort your appearance, and styling that looks great in-person may not come across as well on screen. Check your look in the video screen as well as your mirror.
- Make sure you have Chrome or Firefox loaded on your device — those tend to work much better with the virtual platform than Internet Explorer.
- Learn more about preparing for a career fair on The Career Center website.
What to Expect at the Career Fair?
- The fair presents you with a list of employers and links to their chat rooms. Select the employer you want to start with, and enter the chat room. Pro-tip: start with an employer that you’re less interested in, so you can view that first conversation as a dress rehearsal for talking to the employers you’re most enthusiastic about.
- When you enter the chat room, type an introduction into the chat box: your name, a question, a remark about what you have to offer that employer. Many people lead with their major, but you don’t have to do that — you can start instead with a skill you know the employer is looking for or relevant experience that you have. It may feel a little odd or aggressive, but the virtual platform does not lend itself to subtle social cues — better to just come out and say who you are and what you want.
- Typing your comments into Word and then copy/pasting them to the chat will help you avoid typos.
- Asking questions is a great way to show that you’ve done your research and you’re interested in the company!
- You may be asked to have a video chat with an employer (this is why you got dressed up). Focus on looking at your camera (not the image of the person you’re talking to on your screen) and listen carefully to the questions you’re asked. It’s okay to take a moment to think or ask for clarification of the question. If you have relevant experience and skills, go ahead and state them. If you would like to have an interview with the company, go ahead and say so.
- Take notes! It all goes pretty quickly and you will forget who you talked to at which company.
- Make sure you get the name of anyone you have a meaningful conversation with so that you can write them a thank-you email when the Virtual Career Fair is over.
What Happens After the Fair?
- Write thank-you notes to anyone you had a meaningful conversation with. Thank them for talking to you, try to mention something specific that came up in the situation to help job their memory, and reiterate your interest in the position. If there’s anything you forgot to say or additional information that might be helpful (like a writing sample), go ahead and include it in your thank-you email.
- Use your momentum! While you wait to hear back from employers, keep looking for jobs or internships to apply for. If you attended the career fair more to practice than out of interest in the positions available, then think about who you’d like to network with that wouldn’t come to a career fair. Reach out to the HPRC to talk about your next steps.