[5 min read]
Career Fair season is upon us! The NUS Career Fest slated for 29th January and 1st February is set to boast over 300 employers showing themselves off to a whopping 11000 students.
The NUS Career Fair is no longer a series of booths and cocktail tables lined up like terracotta warriors on display. It’s evolved into a fascinating carnival of colours, creativity and careers designed to help you learn about the endless possibilities that await you.
It’s not a career fair, it’s a festival of learning.
For those seeking inspiration, there’s a big tent styled Human Library as well as a Launch Stage with inspirational speakers sharing their stories either one on one or to a big audience.
For students wanting to learn how to dress for different occasions, step into the Hollywood themed Dress for Success lounge with Fashion Consultants from leading brands educating students about shoes, hair, make up and all the clothes to mix and match to suit your professional image.
There’s even a section dedicated to virtual reality where students can experience first hand how VR is influencing the world of work. To support students in the changing hiring process, there is also a ‘Hack your digital interview’ clinic that simulates the experience of being assessed by your dream employer through a video interview. This is the fastest growing segment of the pre-hire process so this is your chance to get good practice and immediate feedback from trained career coaches.
With so much going on, students like you need to strategise to make the most of their time there. Here’s how you can get the best of Career Fest 2019!
1. Set a goal
There’s a lot of research that suggests that goals give us direction, focus, clarity and motivation. With a goal, you are more likely to be motivated to speak to employers, ask questions and engage in the activities on offer until you’ve met your goal. There’s more research suggesting that setting learning goals is much more effective than setting performance goals. So while setting a goal of speaking to 15 employers is great, I suggest framing it as a learning goal. For example, you may frame it like this:
‘By speaking to 15 employers, I aim to learn about:
- 3-5 industries that I could consider starting my career in; or
- What goes on in the workday of a market research consultant; or
- The skills and experiences do I need to highlight in my resume in order to be shortlisted for an interview with a big MNC like Unilever?
If you go in without a goal, there’s a high chance you might get overwhelmed by the sheer size of it all and not engage deeply enough to learn anything meaningful.
2. What’s your game plan?
With your goal in mind, it’s time to be strategic. This site gives you a list of all the companies in attendance, the roles they are hiring for and the exact majors they are hiring from. It does not get clearer than that. So take half an hour of your time to look through this, identify the companies you want to meet and where they are located. Then plan your route accordingly. This floor plan tells you where everything is located. In addition, check out the cool activities you may wish to participate in while you are there.
If you still aren’t clear on what to do when you are there, check out the ‘Game Plan‘ station where Career Coaches will help you create your game plan.
3. Do your research and ask good questions
What employees do managers want to hire? They want driven self starters. They most certainly do not want recruits looking to be spoon fed information they should be able to find themselves. So if you are looking to land a job at Singtel, the nice hiring managers will undoubtedly oblige you even if you ask ‘captain obvious’ questions, but they surely will not remember you fondly. You want to be the candidate they remember because of the engaging, free-flowing conversation that came about because of the thoughtful questions you asked.
As a guiding principle, remember that common knowledge is not research. So go online, check out the company website, be familiar with it’s business, the products and services and its values. You might want to do a search on Google News to find out what’s been putting them in the news lately. Once you’ve scoured all the publicly available information, prepare some good questions.
The following are not good questions:
- Are you hiring? [Yes of course, otherwise we won’t be here!]
- What roles / degrees/ majors are you hiring for? [The answers are all here.]
- What does your company do? [Read their website!]
Here are some good questions:
- Could you tell me more about XYZ role in your company? What does a fresh grad in that role do on the job?
- Why did you choose to work here?
- What excites you most about working here?
- What have you seen to be the biggest challenge for people like us moving from undergrad to new hires?
- What are the expectations of fresh grads in this role at your company?
- Are there any courses or experiences a student like me in my third year should equip myself with before applying to your firm?
- What type of person excels in your firm?
- What differentiates people who do well in your firm vs those who find it difficult?
4. Prepare an authentic introduction
I’m sure you’ve heard about an elevator pitch. Personally I’m not a fan of the phrase. The term pitch connotes ‘sales’ and I have an aversion to it. I prefer to tell students to make an authentic introduction. Prepare your introduction before hand and test it out a few times so that you are able to introduce yourself fluently and confidently. That will make for a good first impression. The introduction should also serve as a conversation starter. I would typically introduce myself and then end of by telling the recruiter what I’m curious to learn from them.
A simple framework is ICI.
Introduce yourself and your academic background: Hi, I’m Jonathan and I’m in my final year studying organisational psychology because I’m quite curious about how management systems and structures can be put in place to optimise organisational performance!
[I find it useful to connect what you are studying to ‘why’ you are studying it. It makes you appear more purposeful.]
Communicate something else that’s interesting and helps you build rapport: Outside of classes I’m a passionate endurance athlete. I enjoy marathons and triathlons because it gives me a strong sense of achievement
[Here’s a good place to briefly introduce a hobby or CCAs or special project you are passionate about that subtly showcases some transferable skills and help the recruiter connect to your personal side.]
Identify what you want to learn: .…and I’m here to learn more about what it means to be a consultant at your firm. What types of problems do you help clients with? And because I’ve read that you have some regular returning clients, I’m curious to know what makes your clients keep coming back to you?
5. End by setting yourself up for a follow up
If you had prepared a bunch of good questions, chances are you would enjoy a great and potentially lengthy conversation. Just be mindful not to ‘hog’ the recruiter. If you see a line building up or if you’ve made the recruiter talk himself tired, graciously acknowledge that by saying something like, ‘I see many others wanting to talk to you’ or ‘thanks for spending so much time with me’. And then follow up with, ‘I don’t want to hold you up so if you don’t mind, I’d love to follow up with you at a later date if I have more questions? Could I have your card to contact you later please?’
After the event, drop him or her a thank you note and schedule a follow up if you require one.
I hope this has been helpful – stay curious and enjoy the event!
All the best!