Making an Extraordinary Impression at College Job Fairs: For Students with ADHD and Asperger's
If you are thinking about finding an internship over the summer or are exploring different occupations then attending a college job fair is the first step. The college job fair is often the gateway to some seriously amazing experiences later on in life. Aside from networking, job fairs are excellent places to learn about specific companies, hiring policies, and what they are looking for in employees.
But for those struggling with ADHD and Asperger’s (or similar issues), the college job fair is a gauntlet. You might be feeling uneasy, unprepared, and unwilling to put yourself into such an uncomfortable position. That’s why you should go. Yes, it sounds crazy, but the unfamiliar setting of a college job fair is not a bad thing.
That’s why I’m writing this blog, to help you make an extraordinary impression at the college job fair and get the most value from the experience as possible.
WHAT IS A COLLEGE CAREER FAIR?
This question is the major cause of trepidation for most students. A fair always paints the picture of a lot of distractions and an overwhelming amount of information, but that isn’t the case.
The college career fair is an event that provides students, and sometimes alumni, with the opportunity to meet with a number of prospective employers on campus or at an off-campus hall. Like a real fair, these corporations and employers set up booths with pamphlets and other goodies. You can peruse the booths, ask questions, take notes, receive information, and even have one-on-one interviews with the hiring manager, should they be available.
There is a wide range of possibilities open: internships, summer jobs, post-graduate positions, immediate hires, and more.
TIPS FOR OPTIMIZING YOUR JOB FAIR EXPERIENCE
You might have social anxiety about being surrounded by masses of people, winding up with a group of strangers, or that because of your ADHD or Asperger’s, you will be denied a chance. With a little planning in advance, you can rise above your anxieties. Be sure to follow these tips before, during, and after the career fair:
One to Two Weeks Prior to the Career Fair
1. Get a list of the participating employers, as well as a map.
About a week before the career fair, either go to the career office or download and print out a map and list of participating groups from the career office website. There is usually an online directory that lists each employer and the available job or internship opportunities.
2. Do your research.
In other words, carefully review the websites of potential employers that you have never heard of or interest you. Be sure to pay special attention to the human resources page. This will help you figure out if the company or internship is a good match with your personality, skills, interests, and long term goals.
This is in preparation for asking questions and providing answers. Make up a short list, either typed or handwritten, that you can look at while attending the fair to keep your thoughts on track. Be sure to add points from the website that you liked, such as culture, benefits, or anything else that makes you say, “I could work there.”
3. Practice making your pitch.
Also known as an “elevator speech,” the pitch is a 30-60 second blurb where you introduce yourself to the employer. A good pitch is made up of who you are, what your degree and interests are, what kind of job you are looking for, your top skills, and why you are interested in their company (which you already researched). Talk to your friends, professors, and counselors about some strong selling points you can include.
4. Plan your outfit.
You know the saying, “dress for success” by now. Get yourself some interview attire and carry a portfolio—not a backpack. Being overdressed is often better than showing up in casual clothes, so at least aim for a white button-up along with a business suit or skirt set. Also carry at least 2 pens with you, because you never know when one will run out of ink or get lost.
Of course, the other part of a winning outfit is some well-made business cards and an up-to-date resume. Don’t forget these things.
5. Prioritize the employers you are most interested in.
Chances are that the employers you are interested in are also going to attract others as well. You should go when they won’t be overcrowded with candidates. Save the other vendors for later, after you have spoken to everyone of importance. Don’t be overly preoccupied with brand name employers since they may have the most competitive employment scenarios. Smaller employers who are not well known may offer wonderful opportunities and allow young hires to take on broader and more responsible roles early in their career.
During the Career Fair
1. Go as early as possible and allow plenty of time. Don’t rush it.
Arrive early so that you can access your priority employers before they are overcrowded with applicants. Try to cover as much territory as possible during the day, since you may be surprised by employers with whom you were not originally familiar. Avoid going to close to the publicized close time, because no one is going to want to speak to you for very long.
2. Take out your map and start exploring.
You have your map and your notes. It’s time to start exploring. Locate the employers that interest you the most. Confirm their locations then get into a line. Extra tip: Visit a company that you are not interested in just to practice and get the “jitters” out.
3. Take a deep breath (or several). Remain calm.
You can do this. Just like you, other students are going to be nervous too. But remember: these employers have come to this college career fair for you. They want to meet you and see what you can bring to their company.
Be open to the experience. Chat with the representatives. Enjoy the moment. As long as you have fun, the career fair will be a breeze. Maintain a positive, energetic attitude throughout the event, remember that it is the first time that each employer will be hearing from you. First impressions count!
4. Introduce yourself and make your pitch.
The pitch I mentioned? Once you get your chance to speak, this is where you make your case. Extend your hand, greet the potential employer, and give your name. Be sure to hand them your resume then get ready to talk about who you are, your career interests, as well as academic and extracurricular activities up to now. Highlight your strengths.
5. Take notes.
Pay attention to names, dates, locations, and any answers these employers have for your questions. Also note specific employer information sessions, on-campus interviews, and projected hiring dates that may affect you. Writing will also keep you from getting distracted by everything that is happening around you.
6. Get a business card.
Or an informational pamphlet. Store all the cards you receive somewhere that you forget about later. You’re going to need the contact information on the cards later.
7. Show the potential employers that you are grateful for their time.
Once the chat or one-on-one interview wraps up, be sure to once again shake the representative’s hand, thank them for coming, and wish them a wonderful experience. If they had seemed extremely interested in you and even gave you some dates or other contact information, be sure to tell them that they will be hearing from or seeing you again soon.
After the Career Fair
1. Follow up with a thank you. This is a MUST!
Hopefully, you did what I suggested and wrote some quick notes down on the business card, including the date of the college career fair. Now, about a day or two after the college fair has ended, you should take out that business card and finalize the process with a thank you note or email. Handwritten notes are always appreciated, but you can still make a wonderful impression with an email.
The thank you note doesn’t have to be long. Simply saying you are glad to have met the individual and are looking forward to the next time you meet is more than enough. The thank you is often what seals the deal, because it shows you are not only courteous but that you are seriously pursuing employment.
Don’t let your ADHD hold you back from achieving your career goals. Believe in who you are and what you have accomplished up to this point. By doing so, you can put your best foot forward, create connections, and gain a lot of valuable experience from the college job fair.