The after-party: some advice for after the career fair

Dr. Joseph Barber

There is always a lot of advice given to people about to attend career fairs, but here are some thoughts for those of you going through that post-career fair period.

The essentials:
For every resume you gave at the career fair, you should have tried to take a business card so that you can follow-up with the representatives that you spoke with. Make sure that you do this soon, and do it for the majority of representatives that you had interactions with. Do it even for those employers that aren’t in your top 5 list, because it is never a disadvantage to make a good contact. Your email doesn’t have to be long. Here are some topics to cover:

  • Thanks for representing your employer at the fair
  • Thanks for chatting with me about x, y, and z
  • You may recall me as the student who had the a, b, c, experience
  • Please let me know if I can provide any additional information
  • I look forward to hearing back about the job/internship

Some of you may have used the career fairs for more general networking – interacting with representatives to learn more about their company or their experiences (as Penn alumni). In some cases the people at the career fair weren’t the best people to answer your specific questions, but you can still follow-up with the representatives who did attend to see if they would be willing to put you in contact with someone who can help answer your questions. In which case, you message covers much the same topics as above, but also includes your “ask”:

I had mentioned my interest in the R&D department, and you said that you were not the best contact, but might be able to connect me with someone. Please do pass on any contact information for colleagues at your organization that you think I might be able to reach out to with my questions”.

Your goal with any networking opportunity is to keep the conversation going beyond the initial point of contact at the career fair – there are many different ways you can do this.

Beyond the essentials:
Career fairs are intense, high-energy events, and not everyone is comfortable in these environments. They can feel overwhelming. If you had a negative experience at the fair, don’t be discouraged. Think about different approaches that you can use that might be a better fit for you. For example, you can always seek out representatives from different employers through QuakerNet or using the Penn Alumni LinkedIn Group. An advisor at Career Services can chat about the different strategies you might use – and that many others like you have used successfully before.

Taking advantage of some of the self-assessment tools like Myers-Briggs, Strong Interest Inventory, and StrengthsQuest, can also help you determine how you can use your strengths most effectively when you are trying to achieve your current career goals – whether these are finding an internship, finding a job, or finding the beginnings of a career path (or two – it is always good to have options) that eventually leads to a job/internship.

Author: Joseph

Joseph Barber is a Senior Associate Director at Career Services serving graduate students and postdocs. He has a PhD in animal behaviour and animal welfare, and continues to teach these subjects as an adjunct professor at Hunter College (CUNY).

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