– By Lindsey Evans, designer
The following is a list of helpful reminders to students as they enter the wonderful season of career fairs. Keep your head up. You’ll do great! (implied image of grandma pinching your cheeks…)
Here we go, in no specific order:
Research the Employers Attending
We know you have a thousand other deadlines on your calendar, but it makes a considerable first impression when you arrive prepared. It stands out to an employer when they remember, “Wow, that student knew… we just had that amazing project published… or have a principal that went to their university… or the size of our firm and asked how we integrate culture and individualism….” Keep a cheat sheet if you must. Review before you approach the employer. It’s ok; I won’t tell.
Don’t Bring a Limp Fish
A strong handshake sets a solid foundation for a first impression. Apprehension, intimidation, and passivity are not what you want to portray. Additionally, please remember this is not an arm wrestling match. Practice with friends. Seriously.
Don’t Start the Conversation with “Are you Hiring?”
Businesses function on long term outlooks. See Mike Konzen’s, PGAV Chairman and Principal, blog post on persistence. They are interested in getting to know you, so when the next big project walks through the door, they can bring you in to save the day – whether that is tomorrow, this spring, or five years from now. Make a point to follow up with recruiters with which you made a connection. A handwritten note still goes a long way, and networking is a daily, continuous effort.
Believe me; every design professional understands the power of deadlines. You may have printed out your resume 5 minutes before running across campus to attend the career, but at least make it appear like you didn’t write it 5 minutes before. It will benefit you to prepare ahead of time. Proofread your resume and portfolio (or better yet, have someone else give it a once over), and make sure there are no typos and/or grammatical errors. Firms have a limited amount of information to remember you by. Don’t let it be a misspelling.
Mug: Courtesy of Al Cross, PGAV Vice President
Approach an Employer by Yourself
A firm is not looking to hire you AND your best friend. They are looking to get to know you, as an individual, with your specific qualifications. You will shine much brighter without someone else creating shade.
Don’t Underestimate the Networking Opportunity
At what other time in the near future are you going to have scores of professionals in a room waiting to talk directly to you? In addition to the firms that they are currently representing, these professionals probably also have close colleagues that work for other firms, in other cities, working on other project types. See Tony Schmidt’s, PGAV Exhibit Designer, blog post on his time in the UAE. It’s a small world; I promise you. Honestly describe who you are and what your interests are. You never know with whom you might get connected.
Make Eye Contact
Eye contact creates an additional level of communication with another person and can indicate focus, confidence, and a connection. If a professional is going to hire you in the hopes that you will be the next greatest thing since sliced bread, he or she will need to be convinced of this. If you don’t believe in you, how can you expect someone else to? I know… The sappiness is intentional.
Employers that attend career fairs didn’t wake up 10 minutes before, put on the first pair of pants they see on the floor, and substitute gum for a toothbrush. You probably shouldn’t either. Additionally, if you decide to chew gum as a backup, spit it out before entering the fair.
Create a Portfolio that Shows Your Personality
Whether you love color and curves or greys and angles, develop a portfolio/resume/teaser that clearly represents you. The wonderful thing about creativity is right answers and only one way of doing things are few and far between. Just keep in mind, if you are going to do something, do it with purpose. It IS possible to feel attention to detail and quality of work when holding a person’s portfolio.
And last but not least…
Apply for the Spot Experiential Scholarship
This opportunity, named for PGAV’s staff mascot Spot the Zebra, challenges college students to design a destination based upon one of seven unique environmental concepts. The creator behind the winning submission will choose to visit, along with one guest, one of five PGAV-designed destinations in North America. Find more information about the Spot Experiential Scholarship here.
All the best to the leaders of tomorrow during this career fair season. Enjoy!