By Juliana de Souza at the Centre for Student Involvement & Careers.
For many of you, this may be your first time speaking to potential employers over a video call. To prepare, let’s walk through how to talk about your degree and make meaningful connections, plus some best practices for attending virtual career fairs.
Your resume is your storytelling tool, so make sure it looks sharp. Update your co-curricular activities, past and current jobs, and volunteer experience, and save it as a PDF to maintain the formatting.
Even though you may be attending this fair from the comfort of your couch, dress business casual. First impressions count, even in an online setting. Also, some research suggests dressing up can make you feel more confident.
Update your resume and consider dressing business casual.
Prepare your pitch
As an Arts student, you have many skills and bring valuable perspectives employers are seeking. However, you can’t assume that employers will easily translate your History or Geography degree into skills that make sense to them. It’s your job to articulate your skills in a way employers will value.
When you say, “Hello! I am Susie da Silva and a third-year Political Science student. I would love to work for your digital marketing company,” employers may think, “Political Science and digital marketing? How can I put those two together?”
Instead, offer something employers value right away. For instance, “Hello! I am Susie da Silva, and I’m interested in digital marketing. I researched your company and learned you need people who can recognize patterns and trends, and know how to analyze data. Those are things I’m learning in my degree. Could you tell me more about how a new hire on your team might get to apply those skills?”
The NAME acronym can help you craft your introduction in four easy steps:
Motivation for Attending
Enquire about what they’re looking for in new hires
Find a way to link what you are studying to what the employer is hiring for.
Do your homework
Take the time to research and shortlist the companies you hope to interact with during the fair. Most organizations hire Arts students in different capacities and roles, so don’t be afraid to research tech, engineering, and health care employers just to name a few. Start with your top employers: Look up their organizations’ missions and goals, company culture, the types of roles they hire for, and think about how you can ask meaningful questions about them. “What does your company do?” and, “What positions do you have open?” are not meaningful questions. To come up with good questions, bust out your critical thinking skills and ask yourself “what about with this company am I curious about?” If you can’t find the answers online, you may have a good question to ask them.
Once you know your top companies, create a plan to interact with them. Decide which employers you would like to meet first, and determine whether they have specified a preference between connecting through chat, audio, or video. Before beginning a meeting with an employer, have your documents and questions ready to share. As you engage, keep your written grammar and speaking tone professional.
Ask questions that show you have done your research.
Anticipate tech needs
Anticipate and be ready for tech problems. To begin with, ensure you have a reliable internet connection, download any software you might need, and test your video and audio. It is a good idea to sign in a bit before the event starts, so if something goes wrong, you have enough time to address it.
Find out which software you'll need in advance, and test your video and audio with each program.
To make the most of the Career Day, add these best practices to your list:
- Set up a calendar reminder — it is easy to forget about it if you can’t see it!
- Be professional — use your preferred name and avoid inappropriate nicknames.
- Turn off cellphone and computer notifications temporarily.
- Choose a quiet place free of distractions to attend the virtual fair — yes, you will need to wash the dishes and/or clean your bed! Virtual backgrounds are also an option.
- Download the most common video platforms — Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WebEx and Skype.
- Check out the warm-up booth hosted by the Centre for Student Involvement & Careers — you will have a chance to talk to a Career Educator and ask any last-minute questions before talking to real employers.
- Pay attention to your posture and maintain eye contact — it can show how engaged or disengaged you are in the conversation.
- Take notes — write down employers’ names, emails, and any other important details that may help you in future interactions with that employer.
After the fair is done, follow up on any actions you have agreed to with the employer and send a thank you note to the people you had close and meaningful interactions with. Consider mentioning something you learned from them, rather than just a generic, “Thank you for meeting with me.” Additionally, take this opportunity to grow your LinkedIn by inviting people you made good connections with to join your network.