This week, IE students received an email announcing the Career Fair 2013, and giving the confirmed list of companies, the final schedule and some general guidance.
I would like to complement that email with some hands-on advice collected from several sources within the IE Career Management Center. Most of this is obvious. But I have been at career fairs myself as a company representative and the amount of ridiculous things you see in a day is enough to fill a book. As it is in the greatest interest of all of us at IE to appear in the most professional way to the outside world, I hope this will be useful as a checklist.
If you plan to speak to a company, come prepared. Do not spontaneously chat with company representatives. First, take a look at the information provided by the companies for this event. Then, continue with web research and get to know everything they publish about careers. Do not forget about LinkedIn and follow the company there.
As much as the conversations should be natural, prepare your introduction (an “elevator pitch”), your most important selling points during the conversation and potential closings.
Finally, make sure to dress to impress (can you do so by wearing something that relates to them, like using their colors?), to have your business cards ready, your CV with professional picture in electronic version and printed on nice paper. And, last but not least, already a cover letter!
During the IE Career Fair
Start right: Choose the best time during the day to come and choose an appropriate moment to approach a company representative, ideally when there are no other students. Focusing on your counterpart means that you take your time and – please – don’t come with hands full of food. Start with a nice introduction and catch the name, because you want to use that name during your talk and later on for a follow up.
I will not write about how to communicate. You want them to like you, so do your best to achieve. One thing to keep in mind, however: Do not forget to talk about yourself. It is a common mistake that people only ask questions about the company, but do not make a connection to what they can potentially do there.
What I found most useful for my own preparation are ideas for good questions to ask. While the best questions are the specific ones that you find doing company research, the following examples might provide some inspiration.
- About you: What project are you working on now, what are you doing and what do you find interesting about that? What has the highlight and low-point been for you so far? Why did you decide to join this company? What were your alternatives? Have your expectations been fulfilled?
- From you to general to me: How much choice do people have as to what projects they work on or who they work with? What is the expected career development for someone in my position? What is the professional turnover rate – or the expected length of stay for an MBA? What are some of the main reasons people leave? What is the training and professional development program?
- About us: Can you give me some representative example of recent projects that are typical of what I can expect to be staffed on? What exactly would my role be? What areas would I be working on and who determines that? How would my performance evaluations work?
Is the end of the IE Career Fair the beginning of your future career? Might be. Most importantly, reflect on what you learnt and how you want to proceed. Some housekeeping not to forget: Send a contact request to the people you talked to on LinkedIn immediately after the event. Write a thank you email when you think they are back in office and have time to read it. And after about another two weeks, plan for your first follow-up.