So you’re back at school, starting your senior year and finally seeing the exit sign. But lurking over all of your senior fun is the daunting task of finding gainful employment and the seemingly endless rounds of career fairs. It’s almost like speed-dating. You only have 5 minutes to make an impression and hopefully snag a follow-up interview; but, oh by the way, you are competing with swarms of desperate seniors also intent on making an impression.
My first piece of advice is to RELAX. There is a path to jobs out there for you. Notice that I did not say your dream job. You may have to take a job and turn it into THE job. But the demand for STEM graduates has never been higher. I am often told by recruiters that they can’t hire enough engineers because they “simply don’t seem to be out there.” So the numbers are on your side.
Second piece of advice is to PREPARE. Before you get caught up in endless PSETs or your senior research project, take a couple of Saturday afternoons to get ready. Presumably, it’s been drummed into you by now that you need to have an up-to-date resume. So we will put that aside. But you do need to do some homework:
- Do some research. What companies are attending the career fair? Can you discuss their products with them and ask relevant questions? Where they are located (and would you consider living there)? What size company interests you? Your current feelings about your school’s size should give you some insights. Also, have a list of questions ready to fill that awkward silence that follows when a recruiter asks “Is there anything you want to ask me about?” They don’t have to be technical questions but could be about company culture, the rental market or attractions in their area.
- Train like an athlete. Get some sleep the night before. Eat something even if your stomach is upset. Stay hydrated. Use the restroom before you enter the venue. It’s hard to think on your feet when you are tired or looking for the washroom …
- Have a strategy. Try to get to the venue early. Head for your must-sees first especially if they are large/well-known companies (your Googles, SpaceXs, GEs, etc.) They will be swamped later in the day, so get on their list early. Your next tier of focus should be local specialty companies especially if you are interested in remaining in the area. They likely have smaller hiring needs.
- Be prepared to interview. Companies are jumping on promising candidates; doing post-fair interviews and, in some cases, issuing immediate letters of intent. An interview request is a great confidence booster (Yay! Someone is interested in you!); but be prepared to give a serious interview. This means that you should have given some thought to salary and benefits, whether you are willing to relocate and how much travel you are willing to do. List your strengths and weaknesses. You should be prepared to talk in-depth technically about your research and internships and your technical goals for the near future
Last bit of advice: Have some FUN! Recruiters know that your stomach is churning and that it seems like your antiperspirant is failing. But this is your chance to grab some free swag, to be courted by some of the best companies in the world and to meet some really interesting people.
Kim was recently nominated for the SWE Achievement Award and asked if she could write blog posts that related to her bio package. This month we picked Career Fair Tips and Tricks and she did it from the viewpoint of the prospective candidate at the career fair. Next month she will do the same topic, but from the viewpoint of the prospective employer/interviewer.