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  • Lynn Miner-Rosen

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.