In my quest to eventually attain employment, I once again found myself at the Career Exploration and Development Center with my good friend Tim Wince. This time, we were discussing the scary shark tank that is networking. He brought out a brochure with different job fair options all over the NW Pennsylvania area and suggested I check out some of them. Since I’m looking for employment in the Pittsburgh area, my eyes immediately locked on the advertisement for the WestPACS job fair in Monroeville, PA. This job fair had all kinds of job opportunities, from full-time employment to internships. All sorts of vendors were scheduled to attend the job fair, including some leading healthcare services. After scanning the list of vendors, I registered on the WestPACS website and awaited the job fair date.

Seeing as how the whole job fair scenario might be a bit intimidating for the average college student, I decided to compile some strategies to help you navigate the day.

  1. Scan the list of vendors and pick out your top 3

Some job fairs have 100+ vendors. To keep you on track, pick your top 3 places of employment that you absolutely have to visit. This way, you won’t be overwhelmed by the swarms of attendees and vendors. You’ll also have a basic plan of attack for the day to help you stay focused and organized.

2. Print out a bunch of resumes

Like, more than you think you’ll need. Make sure there are no spelling errors! Also, if your resume is more than two pages (which Tim assures me is okay) staple the pages together beforehand. This way all your info is kept together and the recruiters won’t lose it. If you want to be extra impressive, buy one of those black leather folders and keep your resumes is one pocket and a notepad/pen in the other. You mean business!

3. Look sharp!

But wear comfy shoes. You’ll be standing around and walking for a few hours. You want recruiters to remember you by your outstanding personality and work ethic, not your blistery ankles.

4. Arrive early.

This is a good tip for multiple reasons. 1) It will be easier to find a parking spot and breeze through the check-in lines. 2) Some job fairs offer special “crash courses” for newbies describing the purpose of the job fair, extra hints, maps, etc. 3) You likely won’t have to wait as long in a line for your top 3 vendors, especially it’s a competitive or big company. 4) You’ll be chatting with recruiters early on in the day while they’re still fresh and less bogged down by talking to millions of attendees.

5. Master your “elevator pitch”

An elevator pitch is a brief introduction to who you are, your experience, where you want to work or see yourself in the future. If you were trapped in an elevator with your top vendor and only had the length of 3 floors to get your point across, how would you describe yourself? My elevator pitch went something along the lines of, “Hi, my name is Mary Kate Carroll. I’m graduating from Gannon University in May 2017 with my Master’s in occupational therapy. I plan on taking my boards exam in June 2017. I’m looking at inpatient rehab or skilled nursing facility OT opportunities in either the Pittsburgh or Cleveland area. I have experience with working with adults with physical, neurological and cognitive disabilities as well as children on the autism spectrum.” Or something along those lines. Most likely, I just blurted out random words and prayed they made sense. Write out your elevator pitch before you go so you don’t forget anything important. A quick Google search can lead you to a template or what you should include in a perfect elevator pitch. And don’t forget to smile!

6. Think positive!

Think happy thoughts! If a vendor doesn’t ask for your resume, don’t take it personally. If they say, “Look at our website and apply online,” do just that. Take everything at face value and remain positive. Be open to vendors outside of your top 3 and chat with everyone! You never know what opportunities are out there!  You are a delight and any company would be lucky to have you!

Good luck, my friends! I know you’re going to do great!