by Kimberly Simmons, PharmD
Looking for a job, the right job, or even networking for job opportunities is often a daunting task when considering the number of applicants that you are vying against. Within the St. Louis region, career fairs occur frequently and often times the same employers attend, in search of top talent. So, which career fair(s) should you attend to gain maximum visibility? What do you take? How do you present your best self to ensure that you progress to the next step within the interview process? It all starts with self-confidence of your knowledge, skills and capabilities, selling yourself, and closing the deal!
Prior to attending a career fair, it is prudent to research the company sponsoring the career fair as well as the corporations who will be present. This will help you to vet the value of the career fair in the eyes of the community and corporations who may attend. Additionally, by researching the corporations who will be present, you can ascertain that you are not re-interviewing/re-presenting to the same corporations at each fair and allowing them to form assumptions. Lastly, it is helpful to research the corporations who will be attending the career fair so that you may tailor your cover letter, resume/curriculum vitae (CV), anticipate on-site interview questions, and engage the company representatives in conversation.
At the career fair, be prepared to introduce yourself with an elevator pitch to each person who you meet. Don’t present the generic elevator pitch that starts with, “Hi, my name is_________ and I am ______ and I am seeking ______” but be innovative. Craft a powerful, memorable and captivating elevator pitch that gains the interest of your potential employer, such as, “I realize that over 80% of fast food chains utilize social media, mass marketing, and digital media to reach consumers and X company is holding true to a traditional approach by only using mass marketing and digital media. I am a marketing specialist with over 10 years of experience with Y and Z companies and would like to talk with you about how I have helped these companies to leverage social media to grow their market share by DD points during my time as an employee”.
Your innovative elevator pitch should be matched to self-confidence in your knowledge, skills, and capabilities, which begins with your cover letter and your resume and/or curriculum vitae. If you are not confident with your cover letter and/or resume/CV work with a qualified consultant. These two documents are an opportunity to sell you from the layout of the document to the information contained within.
Also, it would behoove you to take a front man (friend) and a smart device. The front man is a tactical move that would scope out all of the companies which you may have researched in advance or identified on spot. Your friend would speak with the companies listening for buzz words, learn the names of company representatives, and other pertinent pieces of information that would benefit you and position you well in your meeting with the company. The smart device would enable you to look up additional information that your front man referenced about the companies so that you have detailed information to engage potential employers in conversation. After a debriefing between you and the front man, your friend would formally introduce you to the corporations as “Hi, corporation X, we spoke earlier about Y, and I think Sue has Z skills that are matched with what we spoke about”. Essentially, your front man is selling you to the corporation and utilizes the cliché of ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’.
Prior to ending conversation, always close! Ask the person about next steps, when will they be expecting to make a decision, when will the phone/in-person interviews begin, when will you hear from them. This establishes an expectation and shows interest on your part.
Finally, follow-up with potential employers, promptly, with a handwritten note.. Although in the electronic age, emails are quicker and easier, it is less personal. A handwritten note signifies that you went the extra mile and made it personal.
Kimberly Simmons is the Assistant Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion and is an Assistant Professor in Pharmacy Practice at St. Louis College of Pharmacy. She is a native of Atlanta, GA and relocated to the region in 2012.