The beginning of a new semester or academic year always feels like a whirlwind. You’re growing used to your schedule, you’re making new friends or catching up with old ones, and you’re getting involved in extracurricular activities. The months will pass by faster than you can imagine and soon you’ll be asking yourself, “What internship am I doing this summer?” or “What am I doing after graduation?”
At ESCP we want to emphasize: it really is never too early to start thinking about career options! As a Master student, an internship is usually a mandatory part of the programme and also an excellent potential stepping stone to the primary goal of a full-time position of your choice. While ESCP offers many services to prepare you for the job market, the best opportunity to get the most out of your efforts are the Career Fairs that take place on the Berlin, London, Madrid, Paris, and Turin Campuses, as well as online. Each campus hosts at least one large general Career Fair per year, with various career- or industry-specifics spread throughout the year. And, no matter what campus you are currently studying on, you are welcome to attend the fairs on another campus!
Given the stakes, a career fair can feel a bit intimidating, but here are some pointers for making a great first impression with potential employers, whether in person or online, and tips for following up afterwards.
Why attend a career fair ?
A career fair is an excellent way to explore your career options with a wide range of sectors and industries. You’ll have the chance to meet with recruiters to not only learn more about companies, but also make contacts at a place you may want to apply now or later. Many employers also send alumni to career fairs, increasing the chance of a memorable connection with company representatives. Finally, attending a career fair allows you to practice presenting yourself as a professional before an actual job interview.
Preparing for a career fair
Preparation is key to getting everything you want out of the fair. Be sure to devote a good amount of time before so that you feel confident and ready to achieve your goal.
- Make sure to meet all registration deadlines to attend all sessions you’re interested in.
- Have a look at the employers that will be attending, and research the ones you would like to meet. Look into their mission, history, regional offices/headquarters, market, product, customers, etc. What kind of positions are currently open? How likely is a position to be open in the future? What are the tasks and responsibilities? What kind of teams would I be working with in a specific position?
- Review your CV to ensure it is up-to-date and follows best practices.
- Print copies of your CV to share with recruiters from your targeted companies, just in case.
- Prepare and practice the “elevator pitch” that allows you to concisely present yourself. Focus on your strengths and skills, and mention why you stopped at their booth.
- Prepare relevant questions that demonstrate your motivation, in addition to preparing answers to potential interview questions.
At the career fair
You’ve arrived at the event. You’re nervous and excited at the same time. Here’s a checklist to use to make sure that you make the most of this important opportunity.
- Dress to impress. The goal is to make an excellent first impression, so be well-groomed and dress in comfortable clothing. The minimum attire is business casual, but for certain industries (finance or consulting, etc.), you should consider formal work attire.
- Arrive early for any scheduled sessions!
- Avoid going to booths or speaking with recruiters in a group setting. There’s less of a chance that you’ll be remembered.
- Follow your action plan but consider speaking with one or two of your low-priority companies for practice first. This will make you more confident in the interviews with your high-priority companies.
- Attend company presentations: this can give you valuable insights into the companies you are interested in and more potential opportunities for a job interview.
- Stay focused on your goal of learning and networking. You truly never know where a contact may lead you!
After the Career Fair
Plan a follow-up strategy and execute on it soon after the event so any interactions are top-of mind. It should include:
- Add recruiters on LinkedIn instead of sending an email. LinkedIn has the benefit of being a network in which you can find mutual connections but also keep track of messages more easily.
- Include a message like “We met during XYZ career event and I would like to stay in touch to explore future roles at your company”. Don’t hesitate to personalise the note based on your actual conversation.
- If you would like to ask a question about a specific position, include the related link in the message. Recruiters are often dealing with many open roles at once.
- If applicable, apply for positions or follow up with employers based on the information you received from recruiters. Include a reference to meeting a company representative in your cover letter.
Since the pandemic, careers fairs now happen online as well as in-person. Here are two additional tips to keep in mind for virtual interviews.
- Dressing professionally matters in online settings as well! Make sure your top half (at least) is dressed appropriately for the fair.
- It is extremely important to turn on your camera! Online events unfortunately lack the intimate aspect of connecting with someone face-to-face, so you really need to go the extra step to make a memorable impression. Remember also that recruiters are people too, and it is more likely that they can be distracted by their surroundings if they are not looking at you while you speak.
Don’t be fooled – strategically preparing for and attending a career fair is a lot of work. However, it’s a critical task during your Master programme that can pay dividends far into the future. For more specific guidance and advice, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Careers team.