Job Fair, the term sounded almost foreign to me. Yes, everyone has at least a general idea of what to expect when they go into a job fair, but you never truly grasp the idea of a job fair until you attend one. I walked in knowing next to nothing and walked out with more advice than ever!
As I entered the Congressman Stutzman’s Job Fair at IPFW, I saw both what I expected and what I did not expect to see. I saw people of various ages, more venders than I anticipated, laughter, people hugging and joking around, and veterans. My eyes danced around the crowded room full of employers and people searching for employment. I was trying to take in everything around me. I watched people ask questions, listen intently, fill out applications, shake hands, wait for their turn to talk to the company representatives, and interact with people around them. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly, which was not what I expected at all. As I walked through the crowd, I remember being amazed by how many people showed up. I turned to my mentor, Maria Heath, and saw her eyes light up with what looked like both hope and excitement.
When we walked up to the first vender I thought and hoped that my mentor would allow me to observe her interact with the venders so that I could get a better idea of what to say and do. However, that was not the case, I had to take the whole experience head on and slightly on my own.
Using the questions I wrote down on the way to the job fair, I asked nearly 15 company representatives:
- For new job seekers, like myself, what advice would you give them?
- What are the most common mistakes that job seekers intend to make?
- Do you have an internship program?
- Is the internship program open to high school students or just college students?
The feedback I received was phenomenal. Each person I had the chance to speak with was nice, patient, and knowledgeable. They were happy and pleased to answer my questions. Some of them even asked if I had more questions – that caught me the off guard the most!
Most of the answers were what I expected to be told. Nearly everyone person I spoke with answered:
- Dressing professional was very important
- Research to gain knowledge of the company
- Always make good eye contact
- Several had internships for college students
However, there were a few extraordinary responses from employers that stuck to me:
Andrew Gritzmaker, from Lutheran Health Network, told me that you should always treat every day as an interview, to look, speak, and be professional. He shared with me a quote from his boss, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”
Craig A. Hills, from Colonial Life, insists that you only have 60 seconds to sell yourself and that he noticed many job seekers lacked of confidence.
Lori A Busche, a human resources manager from Busche, recommends that you should always ask how you can advance in a company and to always make a follow up. She also told me that a mistake people intend to make is that they do not ask a lot of questions.
As I traveled from person to person, it became easier to talk to each of them. I became less and less worried about messing up when I talked, running into a rude person, or making a fool of myself in front of my mentor and the venders.
I did mess up when I talked to a few of the venders. I would forget a part of my introduction, not be clear or specific enough with my questions, or not make enough eye contact. The vendors were okay with my mistakes and with my mentor correcting or reminding me when I forget something. I felt my face go a bit red when my mentor corrected me, but I was grateful for her doing it, because she was extremely helpful as she watched over me.
Just before my mentor and I left the job fair, we spotted the Congressman, Marlin Stutzman. After my mentor talked to him about Linking Michiana and everything that she was trying to achieve, it became my own turn to talk to him. I wasn’t nervous at all! I just had no idea what to talk to him about. I do not follow politics, frankly politics bore me, nor do I know anything about him, so I just ended up talking to him about my internship, where I went to school, and what I did and did not like about the teaching methods. It was a great new experience talking to someone that a lot of people look up to and who is a part of our government.
When leaving the job fair, I felt pretty good about how I handled every situation I was presented with – how well the whole job fair went, meeting a congressman and his chief of staff, and that I did not freak out being the center of stranger’s attentions. I was able to overcome my fear of talking to people I did not know.
Some things that everyone should keep in mind is: everyday should be treated as if it were an interview and that you only have 60 seconds to sell yourself. So, do not forget to try and make those 60 seconds memorable. Remember to look the person in the eyes; be confident and outgoing; dress, speak, and act professional; research the company; have an updated resume with no spelling or grammar mistakes; be honest about everything; do not be scared to ask questions, and just be yourself.