Navigating the Engineering Career Fair

At this point in the semester you’re probably bombarded with “career fair” this and “resume” that.  And for good reason, it’s important! The constant reminder that 240 companies will be in Ames from across the nation hiring students and alums for internships and full time positions can seem a bit daunting.  Just remember that they’re here looking for students just like you, highly capable, involved, and willing to learn.

I have gone to every career fair since I started at Iowa State, and there are some things that make the process easier and a little less stressful. Here are a few tried and true tips to help simplify and prepare you for your trip to the Fall 2011 Engineering Career Fair.

PLAN: If you haven’t started the planning process, now is an excellent time to do so. Take inventory on your personal interests and what you value in a company, work environment and job. If you’re applying for your first internship or job, just keep in mind things that excite or motivate you, especially in group work situations. Draw on things from any of your engineering classes, or if all else fails, reflect on the reasons why you chose the major you did.

Example:  I chose industrial engineering because it is based heavily in process improvements. I love understanding how and why things work, and I love following that flow of production from start to finish. Industrial engineering also has unique opportunities in management and ergonomics which were especially intriguing to me as making a visible difference in people’s lives tied in with my values.

My planning process involves breaking down companies I’m interested in by industry type. I note whether or not I’ve submitted an application with the company, and the type of majors they are looking for. Printing off the map of booths and matching it to your companies of interest is also a good idea.  If you’re in heels like me, you don’t want to waste time wandering around looking for a company.

DRESS: One of the easiest things to mess up that you have the power to prevent. Dress professionally! Ladies, watch the cleavage. You’re trying to find a job, not bar hop or go clubbing. When in doubt, layers are your friend. Be mindful of the accessories you choose. Nothing too distracting, a nice watch and a simple necklace or scarf should do the trick. Be mindful of your shoes, especially if you have a lot of companies to talk too. A low, closed-toe pump is a safe bet, but put on a nice pair of flats and your feet will thank you later. Gentlemen, suit up! If you don’t have a closet a la Barney Stinson from “How I Met Your Mother,” a button up shirt, slacks, tie and blazer will take you far. Be mindful of the shoes. Exceptions to the rule: If you’re volunteering for the career fair or are representing a company but are still looking for a job, recruiters will understand your attire choices.

PLEASE AND THANK YOU: Be courteous and polite. Always ask for contact information, and send thank yous if you connected with a recruiter.

DON’T GET DISCOURAGED: Don’t let one “no” stop you from finding a job that’s right for you. It may take a few tries, but all you need is one “yes” to open up that path to a career.

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