Career Fair Prep – Common Mistakes

With Notre Dame ready to host it annual Winter Career and Internship Fair on January 29th, I thought it an opportune time to share advice with attendees on how to make the event a success.  In Wednesday’s post, I focused on actions to take prior to the event: identifying a target list of firms and conducting research on those companies.  Thursday, the focus shifted to the actual event: what to expect and how to be successful.  Friday, I closed the circle and addressed the steps to take after the fair.

So, that leaves us with the common mistakes that career event attendees commit:

5) Unreal Expectations: No one leaves a career fair with a job or internship offer in hand. One does not just walk up to an employer booth, make introductions and conversation, and receive an offer of employment.  So what should one expect at the fair?

Career fairs and similar career oriented events are places where one can go to obtain information about employment opportunities and career fields, build an impression with a recruiter/employer, and network.  Consider the fair as more of a fact-finding and networking event rather than a job interview.

If you can leave with a better idea of what an employer is looking for in an applicant, more information concerning an internship or job, a stronger relationship with a recruiter, or information you can use to improve your application – than the event is a success. The career fair is only one step in the process.

4) No Research: At a recent career event, a recruiter from General Electric shared a story of a student who came up to his table and asked, “What does General Electric do?”  It was painfully obvious the student had done no preparation, resulting in the student making a poor impression on the recruiter.

Would you ever go out on a date and ask the other person, “What’s your name?” – No! Asking a recruiter what his or her company does is the career fair equivalent to the “What’s your name?” question. No one expects you to be an expert on all the products, services, financial statements, etc. of a company however knowing a bit about the firm you are speaking with is expected.

3) Herd or Hide: Career fairs and other networking events can be intimidating and attending the event with a group of friends can provide security.  One must realize that the firms are not interested in hiring students by the group, they want to hire students individually.  At some point in the fair, one must have the courage to separate himself from his friends and approach an employer.  I recommend arranging meeting points and times to congregate with your friends at the fair in order to offer each other encouragement and advice, but have the confidence to go off on your own to meet an employer.

The opposite end of the spectrum happens as well.  I was in NYC for a career event and saw a young man show up for the event.  He was in his suit, looked ready and sat down to review the list of companies.  Two hours later he had not moved.  He talked with every student who came by his spot, checked his phone 10 times, took a few calls, but he never left his perch to speak with an employer. No amount of prodding got him to enter the fair site.  I can appreciate how nervous we all get when attending career events, I do as well, and that is why I do extra research and preparation to ensure I have the confidence to approach an employer.

2) Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: A student walks into the career event and says to her friend, “I bet there is no one here is looking to hire a liberal arts major.”  Forty-five minutes later the two leave and I overhear the same student saying, “I told you so, they only wanted Finance and Accounting students.” Really?

At the Winter Career and Internship Fair, I can guarantee there are firms in attendance that are looking for students from all four of Notre Dame’s colleges.  Employers from the healthcare, IT, financial, nonprofit, engineering, marketing, government, higher education, consumer product, sales, and other industries will be represented.  This fair will be the ultimate buffet of employment and internship opportunities.  If an individual can’t find a single employer of interest to speak with, then that individual must have their eyes shut.


1) Not Attending: Can you win the lottery without purchasing a ticket? No. Can you hit a home run without swinging a bat? No. Wayne Gretzky, probably the best hockey player of all-time, is credited with saying, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” If you don’t try, you never will succeed.

Get off the couch, put on some clean clothes (preferably not wrinkled) and get over to the Joyce Center on January 29th between 4:00-8:00.  No matter your class year, your major, your interests…go to the event even if it is just to see what this is all about. If you do this, the next time you attend a career event, it won’t seem as intimidating.

See you at the Joyce.


About Kevin Monahan

I have 10+ years experience in coaching clients in their career management and career change efforts. Personal career consulting services combined with employer outreach to help find opportunities for both constituents.
This entry was posted in Career Events, Job Search and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Career Fair Prep – Common Mistakes

  1. Pingback: Career Fair Prep – Post Fair Tips | Kevin Monahan – Career Seeker's Guide

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