I have been putting off attending career fairs for about three and half years now. Now that I am on the last lap of this never-ending race, it was finally time for me to walk in and look for that perfect entry-level position.
For the longest time, I always thought that I would get my degree and just eventually land in a 9 to 5 corporate gig, it doesn’t really work that way and was very humbled to learn that entry-level position can be the best way to get your foot in the door. For the short amount of time that I was there (< 30 minutes), I was satisfied with how I presented my elevator pitch and myself.
Here is what I learned.
Develop Your Elevator Pitch
This is your mission statement. These are your core values, beliefs, attitudes, etc.
- Your pitch should be short (30 – 45 seconds)
- who you are, some skills
- mention a couple of goals that you are working on or have completed
- and what you want to do.
This is the icebreaker and helps give the conversation some direction. You already have the advantage of getting some face-to-face time with people that are in connection with the company. Don’t forget to be enthusiastic about your interaction, because these may be your future co-workers so be sure to mix your personality into the pitch.
‘Drive Out the Fear’
If you were to take anything away from this reading remember, ‘drive out the fear’. John A. Pearce II and Richard B. Robinson wrote about it in Strategic Management: Planning for Domestic & Global Competition when companies are defining their mission statement, which emphasizes a commitment to quality. Think about what you want your mission statement to be when you are presenting yourself to the hiring managers or recruiters. Walking into these events can be intimidating and uncomfortable but if you strategize your approach you will walk out with some excellent results.
Likert Scale Candidates
Going into the event you should have a general idea of what field you are interested in. Mine is marketing, specifically search engine optimization (SEO) and digital marketing is where I want to be. Most job fairs, especially those that are on campus, will give you an idea of which employers will be there, so it is always a good idea to take a couple of hours and research the companies and see what jobs are available. Find those companies and prioritize them. Let’s say, 1 – being the most desirable to 5 – being less desirable (notice the gentle nod to a Likert Scale for you marketing research guru’s out there) and speak to these companies last, yes that’s right LAST.
Find some employers that are there so you can do some real-time elevator pitches to work the nerves out before approaching your Likert Scale Candidates. I find this most effective because I always approach a potential opportunity with an open mind so there might be a certain position that you would be interested in and helps with networking skills.
Think about when comedians are first working out some new material with a new crowd and they want to see how the audience reacts and if they should maybe rework some of the words. It’s all a process. I can practice in front of family and friends to get some feedback (I’m sorry grandma, I know I look very handsome in my suit, but I need some pro’s and con’s to my pitch), but I prefer the trial and error approach better with employers.
What’s Your Niche?
What is going to set you apart from the twenty-other people waiting in line to give their elevator pitches?
My example, I made business cards that were branded for Project Professional and then ended my conversation with, “I would like to give you a copy of my resume and I have also attached a copy of my business card and encourage you to check out my website that I have been working on.” I got some good reactions from it and will continue to use it in the future. It is also a way to increase your web traffic on your website, you can see where the views are coming from and see if it is being effective or not. This will answer another great question, are you positioning yourself correctly?
Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes
After giving myself a personal review of the event, I knew that there were some mistakes I made which I will address. Mistake #1 – with the first booth I visited I didn’t strategize my approach and didn’t try out my pitch to other employers, so it was a little choppy. The first booth was a digital marketing agency and I started off great, but I ended the conversation too soon. There was no line (it was early in the event so not much foot traffic) so I could have kept the conversation going and wish I would have some more questions and mentioned some other goals that I was working on.
In another instance, a gentleman stopped me and said, “what kind of job are looking for?” I replied with, “Marketing, or more specifically digital marketing.” The conversation went on to talk about different positions that were relevant to the field and a little bit about the company. I introduced myself and to his team and handed off my resume. Mistake #2 – I walked away after handing off my resume. But I forgot to give him my pitch. Why? I worked so hard and wrote so small on my index card. Do not be afraid to start talking to these employers, start a conversation and see where it goes. This employer wasn’t one of my Likert Scale Candidates, but they could have been. You never know.
Asking for the Second Date
Overall, I felt successful with talking to all my Likert Scale Candidates and plus a couple of others. So, once I was finished I immediately started to brainstorm of how I was going to follow-up with the employer and make each follow-up unique. I like to put a personal twist on each one of my pitches to show my interest but isn’t always necessary. I make sure to try and get a business card and make a couple of notes of some key terms that happened during the interaction and be sure to bring it up in my follow-up. The follow-up email is a key component to showing your interest in the company so be sure to not skip this step.
Be Proud of Yourself
The first time I ever attempted stand-up comedy I bombed. I bombed hard. It felt like I was having an out of body experience and my adrenaline was going a thousand miles an hour. But after the set, I went back to my seat and one of the regular comics came up to me and put his hand on my shoulder, smiled, and said, “it takes a lot of guts to put yourself in front of group of strangers and try to make them laugh, so you should be proud of yourself.” Just remember you accomplished something by attending this event and achieved another goal. So go have a beer and evaluate your performance. What would you have changed or done differently? What worked well? What contacts did you make? You get the picture.
These are just some of the mistakes I made and hope by reading this you can take that into consideration when you are hunting for that job.
Just remember to ‘Drive Out the Fear’.