After Attending the Job and Internship Fair, What’s Next?
[Contributed by Career Center Writer Roxana Hadadi]
Were you one of the more than 1,000 students who attended the Career Center’s Job and Internship Fair on Tuesday, March 27? Did you chat with one of the more than 130 companies, organizations, and nonprofits at the fair? Did you drop off your resume with recruiters? Well … now what?
Getting prepared for each semester’s career fair can be a daunting task, but after the fair is over, don’t become complacent, says Taylor Roosevelt, the Career Center’s customer service coordinator. Getting in touch with contacts, demonstrating your interest in their companies, and continuing the conversations you started at the fair are important steps to help employers remember you and understand why you’re the right candidate for them.
For more insights from Taylor about how to initiate follow-up chats, as well as information about the resources the Career Center offers to assist you in using your fair experience to your benefit, read on!
Q: What should students be doing immediately after the fair to act on the meetings they had with employers?
A: Immediately after the fair, they should have a sense of their interest in particular positions—that should have been verified by speaking with employers. If they haven’t already applied for those positions through employers at the fair, they should be doing so. Their first step should be to either log onto AU CareerWeb, or wherever the employer has their position listed on their website, and apply for those positions.
Q: And how can the Career Center assist in that application process, of crafting specific cover letters for these openings?
A: Students can meet with a career advisor or a peer advisor, and we also have sample cover letters that are available on our website, and we have several print books with cover letters that students can use. And they should also, hopefully during the fair, have jotted down notes during conversations with employers, and they can use those details in their cover letters.
Q: What about follow-up conversations with employers? Should students be reaching out to the people they spoke with, or waiting for contact instead?
A: It really varies depending on the decision of the employer. Some of the employers at the fair weren’t accepting resumes because they require applications to go through the same channel across the board, so students would have to apply online. But it doesn’t hurt to send the recruiter an email and say, “Thank you for speaking with me the other day; I wanted to let you know that I’m submitting my application and would like to continue this conversation further.” It really depends on the employer’s timeline, but regardless of whether a student technically submitted their application at the fair or if they’re doing it now, it’s a good idea to send an email follow-up.
If they don’t have the employer’s direct email, they can search for the recruiter on LinkedIn and connect with them that way. It’s never a good idea to send a generic LinkedIn message; they should edit it to say something like, “We spoke at the American University Career Fair about my interest in such-and-such position. I would just like to reiterate my interest in this position and I’ll be getting in touch with you soon with my application.”
Q: And if students decide to set that follow-up conversation process into motion, how much contact is enough to get you noticed, and how much is too much?
A: If the employer said, “We’ll be in touch with you,” if you call them the next day and ask if they processed your application, then that’s inappropriate. Also, the quantity of follow-ups can be inappropriate—if you send the employer an email on, say, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday after the fair, then that’s appropriate, but if you send them one on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday after the fair, then that’s excessive.
And you have to respect that the process takes time on the employer’s end, as well, because although you might be applying for 10 to 15 positions, the employer is looking through hundreds of applications. It’s good to send a follow-up so you’re fresh in their mind, but not to send too many so you’re discounted from the process.
Q: What if a student doesn’t end up securing the position they applied for through the fair? Is there a constructive way to maintain that contact with the employer?
A: A lot of that comes from how the employer communicates that they did not get this position. If the employer says, “You were one of our top candidates, but we chose to go in a different direction,” then it is appropriate to keep up that conversation in the future. If you got a form email saying, “We’ve hired someone else,” then we recommend expanding your network so you don’t just focus on that recruiter in terms of your network with that organization. Students can do that by joining the AU Alumni LinkedIn group and connecting to alumni who work with the organization so that they can be aware of other opportunities, and that way, if they apply for another position—even if it’s with the same recruiter—that alumni contact can say, “Hey, I know this student from American University, and I think they’d be a good fit.”
Q: What are some books in the Career Center Library that students should consult for this phase of the post-fair process?
A: One of our most popular books is Self-Promotion for Introverts: The Quiet Guide to Getting Ahead by Nancy Ancowitz, and we have a copy of that in the library. It is techniques for introverts who usually don’t like talking about themselves or don’t like processing information out loud; it’s techniques for them to network and to be able to talk about themselves effectively in a way that they can promote their skills.
Another one that’s helpful is Social Networking for Career Success: Using Online Tools to Create a Personal Brand by Miriam Salpeter. It has guidelines for what kinds of networking on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are appropriate versus inappropriate, and how to tailor your Facebook public profile so that employers will be more interested in you, rather than not having one, which can sometimes be a turnoff—or having one that has a lot of inappropriate content on it. It also has information on LinkedIn, which is the most professional social networking option.
Q: And lastly, what is some advice for students who couldn’t make it to the fair this semester, but want to attend in this upcoming fall?
A: We encourage students who are even freshmen and sophomores, who might not be looking for positions currently, to go to the fair because it’s a good way to build that relationship with employers. They can get to know more about an organization’s culture, and if they get a contact within the organization, they can say, “I’m still really early in my coursework, so I’m not able to apply for an internship yet, but is there anything you would suggest for me to do to make myself a better candidate in the future?” So it doesn’t matter if students are applying for jobs right now—they can use the fair as a way to build those connections.