The office of Career, Internship & Student Employment Services is hosting the 31st annual Fall Career Fair this week, Oct. 3-5. While some activities took place yesterday and will happen on Friday, the majority of the career fair’s happenings will take place Thursday, Oct. 4 in the SUB Ballrooms from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Over 200 businesses will be in attendance looking for students majoring in anything from engineering to the humanities and arts. Even if you can’t attend, read on for more general career search tips and tricks.
WHAT TO EXPECT
The easiest way to see what businesses you should be looking out for, as well as businesses you may not know about yet, is through the “Career Fair+” app, found on both the Google Play and App Store. The app includes an interactive floorplan, real-time updates, tips for preparation and a complete employer listing.The listing allows you to sort by what majors companies are asking for, type of employment (full-time, part-time, etc.) and degree levels required for each position.
For the actual fair, it’s recommended that you wear clothing one step above what you’d be expected to wear in the workplace. This means that, at the least, you should attend career fair in business casual. That means skirts, slacks, nice sweaters, button-downs and close-toed, professional shoes. We recommend solid colors over patterns, and nothing with holes, tears or rips, no matter how nice they may look. Unfortunately, the world of professionalism is still a conservative one, and it will nearly always benefit you to dress up rather than risk making a faux pas or seeming disinterested in the job.
Make sure to plan your day out, from who you’re going to speak to, to what route you’ll take around the ballrooms. We suggest starting with your second or third choice employer before going to your first, to work your nerves out and allow yourself some room to make mistakes. You want your first choice job to be the one you nail.
If you did nail it, you may be called back for an interview on Friday, Oct. 5. Interviews in the SUB will last all day, and you should attend wearing the same clothing you did the day before. Bringing another copy of your resume (or a cover letter and reference sheet) never hurts, though it may not be necessary. Again, as always, better to be safe than sorry when it comes to interviewing. Make sure to prepare answers to typical interview questions so that you don’t stumble or freeze up, and try to take a peek at the company on sites like glassdoor.com for accounts of people who have interviewed or worked with the company before. More often than not, you’ll find a surprising amount of advice there. It may not help, but it certainly won’t hurt.
APPLICATION TIPS & HELPFUL HINTS
If you want to strike out on your own, can’t make the career fair or are afraid of being unprepared in the face of so many companies, never fear, you have other, year-round options. Though not as populated and certainly missing that je ne sais quoi that the career fair possesses, check out hireabobcat.com. Sponsored by MSU, this website allows both on-campus and off-campus employers to post job listings for seasonal jobs as well as full-time careers. Hire-a-Bobcat allows you to upload your resume and a cover letter, as well as bookmark listings to come back to later.
Resumes, cover letters, references and letters of recommendation are all important, though not all necessary. For resumes, you should highly consider tailoring itto fit the job you’re applying for. For example, if you’re looking to apply to an office job, the month you worked at Costco probably isn’t as useful as office experiences you’ve had in the past or internships you’ve worked where you dealt with inter-office relations. Your resume should be eye-catching (but not gaudy), unique and no more than two pages (though one is usually better). Don’t avoid cherry-picking skills and rephrasing tasks to fit what the job description is asking for. Don’t lie, of course, but don’t shortchange yourself either.
If you’ve only worked one job (or none), don’t hesitate to put volunteering or leadership experiences from different clubs. Spend more time describing not what the position was, but what you accomplished there. That goes for jobs too. Use action words to describe tasks. Don’t say “I answered phones,” say “Responsible for customer service in-person and over the phone.” Don’t list “helpful,” list the ways in which you helped.
Cover letters are usually explicitly asked for if the employer wants them, but are always a good idea either way. A good cover letter will introduce you as the applicant, your interest in the job and why you think you’d be a better fit than anyone else. Don’t be humble (but don’t be braggadocious), and make sure to address only the parts of your career history you put on your resume. These are typically one page, and should include both your and your potential employer’s information. Address them to a specific person if possible (company websites are a great place to find this out), or to “hiring personnel” if not.
Your references belong on your resume, and should include your supervisor’s name, phone number and email, as well as the company they work for. Again, don’t include references from companies you’re not putting on your resume, and try not to include references from people who were on the same level as you. Ask your boss, not your co-worker (this is different for character references), and make sure that your reference worked closely with you, so that they can accurately and thoroughly speak to both your character and work ethic.
Letters of recommendation are rarely required, but can most definitely give you the leg up over your competitors. When submitting a resume, it’s a lot more impressive when someone has more, rather than less (to a point. Don’t give a potential employer a daily log of every task you’ve completed over the last three years).
IF YOU CAN’T ATTEND
For all you freshman and sophomores who feel that the career fair isn’t worth your time because you still have a few years left before graduation, fear not. Some companies are looking for interns. Don’t want an internship? Hit up the Allen Yarnell Center for Student Success’s (AYCSS) career coaches, who are there to help you figure out future plans, anywhere from summer jobs, to internships, to long-term career plans. Coaches can also assist you in mock interviews and resume building, not just how to get a job and where to look. Anything that might be helpful in getting you the job of your dreams, they can help with.
Currently, AYCSS employs six career coaches with all different specialities. Visit http://www.montana.edu/aycss/careers/planning/career-coach.html for more information and to schedule an appointment.
Finally, don’t stress too much. If you don’t land a position at this career fair, there’s another one in the spring, and lots of resources across campus for you to peruse in the meantime, from career coaching to classifieds. Not many people end up in their lifelong careers right out of college, so it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get anything out of this one. It’s a tough world out there for new college students looking for jobs, but it’s not an impossible one to conquer. You’ve got time.