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Lessons Learned at the Career Fair

D. Rains
Published 24, Feb. 2023

Possibly one of the most important events to attend during your college career is the career fair. It’s the reason you’re pursuing a degree after all, to tell employers that you can do the job and do it well. But when employers won’t read your resume and could care less about your degree, it’s not worth much. So how do you sell yourself? NMT Paydirt wanted to know, so I put on my nicest suit and a small blue badge with my name on it, then walked around to see what I could find out. 

The first piece of the puzzle is in dress. The visual impression you give is almost as important as what you say in developing a person’s first impressions. Your clothes should fit well. Should you choose a suit, the points to check fitment are in the shoulder, neck, and sleeves. The shoulders of the suit should end at the natural end of your shoulders, with no noticeable bunching on the shoulder or upper bicep of the suit. At the neck, you want to avoid having the collar “stand away” where there is a gap between your shirt collar and the suit, while also avoiding a suit where you can feel a pressure on your neck, as this means the suit is bunching up there. Lastly, at the sleeve, your shirt cuffs should be roughly half-exposed, and the sleeves should neither feel restrictive nor should they wrinkle with arms straight.

Should you choose a dress or skirt, however, the guidelines aren’t as restrictive as there are more options in this style. For a career fair specifically, a skirt is recommended as opposed to a dress, as business casual often avoids one-piece outfits. Your shirt should cover your shoulders, and the skirt should be roughly knee length. Should you opt for a dress, however, a light sweater or cardigan is a good option for dressing down the outfit, so as to not appear too formal. Regardless of whether you choose a suit or another style, however, it’s good to accessorize. Studs or simple earrings can compliment almost any outfit, and subtle wrist jewelry or rings can subtly convey a sense of style and professional success.

Being dressed nicely, however, isn’t everything. When talking to recruiters, it’s important to remember to focus on the conversation and developing a personal connection while also being respectful of their time and your mutual reasons for attendance. Don’t try to offer your resume, especially right off the bat, as this will make it seem as though you are both in a hurry and that you are only interested in the job, which even if you are, it’s not nice to be so obvious about it. Instead, ask about the company and the work, and answer any questions the recruiter asks as best as possible. Over the conversation, you will both get a mutual impression of whether or not this job is a good fit for you, and if it is, you will have credit beyond your resume. If you feel by the time the conversation is starting to end that you have both built up some connection with this person, and that this job would be a good fit for you, then that is the time to offer a resume, if they haven’t asked already.

As it turns out, landing a job has much less to do with your resume than it feels like it should. Instead, it’s almost entirely grounded in your ability to connect with a stranger, and to give them the confidence that you can handle yourself and solve problems, as STEM is largely about just that, the ability to think through and solve problems in a system, the qualifications you have are just proof that you know what to consider.


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