As a Career Coach, I get numerous questions from students and alumni for advice on how to “catch” an employer’s attention at a career fair. One of the best pieces of advice I give them is to “dress the part.” This advice comes from my personal observations at various career fairs. I have deliberately set aside time at these events to observe, unobtrusively, what happens in interactions between candidates and employers.
Here’s what I observed at just one event: A recruiter was visiting with a participant who was dressed very casually (jeans and tee-shirt). When another candidate stopped by who was dressed very professionally (suit and tie), the recruiter literally stopped her conversation with the casually dressed candidate and turned to the more professionally-dressed candidate. This really surprised me at first, but when looking at the situation, it told me a lot about what employers/recruiters are seeking. They don’t want to “waste their time” talking to people who aren’t serious job seekers. That’s their “take” on someone who isn’t dressed professionally.
We all know how important first impressions are—and for busy employers/recruiters, this is critical in determining who they will pursue, whether at a career fair or at any other interactions with potential candidates. So what does this mean to you as a job seeker? YOUR APPEARANCE AND DRESS are especially important, and you should dress as if going to an interview when attending a career fair.
But students tell me, “I’m just coming out of a class and I don’t have time to go home and change.” My response—either dress for the event before class OR bring your clothes with you and change in the restroom.
IT’S THAT IMPORTANT!
Bellevue University’s Career Fair Fall 2015 will be held on our main campus at 1000 Galvin Road South, Bellevue, NE in the Garden Level of the Administrative Services Building on Tuesday, October 27th from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. You will have the chance to meet with dozens of top employers to discuss current and future career and internship opportunities in a variety of industries and career fields. The event is open to students, alumni, faculty, staff and the general public.
Gold Sponsors for the event are: Beneficial Behavioral Health Services, Cosentry, DatabaseUSA, Farmers Insurance District 46, Gallup, H&H Chevrolet/H&H Kia, Marriott Global Sales, and Ratheon. Sponsors are Election Systems & Software, Farm Credit Services of America, First Data, Harland Technology services, Lincoln Financial Group, Lozier Corporation, Marianna Industries, Pentagon Federal Credit Union, Seldin Company, and Wal-Mart Bellevue. For a complete list of participating employers, visit http://www.bellevue.edu/student-support/career-services/career-fair.
Dress for success, bring your resume, and come meet employers! Pre-registration is not required.
I meet lots of individuals who decide to make a change to a different career after working in one career for a number of years. Many have come back to school to gain the academic background needed, but have questions as to how to actually make that transition.
Changing careers is a not a transition that happens overnight or in just one job change. When possible, individuals need to start gaining experience in their new career while completing their degree program. Part time jobs, internships and volunteer work are ways to acquire that experience. Another strategy is to look for ways to capitalize on your prior experience in what I would call a “transition job.” An example of bridging two careers is someone with an accounting background who wants to pursue a career in information technology. This person might seek a position with a company that markets, sells and installs accounting or banking software to client companies.
The key is to be creative and look for jobs that will help you make that career transition. Capitalize on your prior experience and show that the skills you acquired in your previous career are transferable to your new career direction. Once you’ve gained some relevant experience, you’ll be on your way to your new career.
Career Services provides a wide variety of online resources to assist students and alumni. The Career Services website (www.bellevue.edu/student-support/career-services/career-services) provides information about the services provided in addition to sample resumes and cover letters. There are also handouts on interviewing including sample questions. The News & Events and Career Fair pages provide details about the upcoming events including a list of registered employers.
The Virtual Career Services Center provides the What Can I Do With a Major information, PEP workshops, and a series of video podcasts. The podcasts are available at http://libguides.bellevue.edu/c.php?g=200216&p=1316787. They cover a variety of topics including employment scams, the career development process, information interviews, networking, and salary negotiation. Each video provides information in a short concise format.
There is a wealth of resources available on the Career Services website, check it out today.
Many of you are preparing to search for your first professional job. Some of you are planning to make a career change or might be in transition after downsizing. Whether you are just starting out or making a change don’t forget to think about the transferable skills you bring with you.
I meet with many students who have primarily worked fast food jobs during school and feel they don’t offer any skills employers would be interested in. That is a mistake. Any time you are working with the public you must use effective interpersonal and communication skills. It is not hard to imagine that customer service and problem-solving skills would be developed in this kind of fast paced environment. These are all skills that are highly prized in any kind of organization. Think back to how you used those skills in the fast food environment and then think about how you would apply those skills to the position you hope to fill. These are excellent stories to share with a hiring manager and you will be speaking from experience which makes you credible.
This same principle can be applied to any position in any field. People in manufacturing companies develop skills in quality, scheduling, teamwork, production planning, and supervision among many other things. People in real estate must have good interpersonal and communication skills, customer service and client relations skills. Again, these are skills that will transfer to many other environments. You just need to take some time to think about all of the knowledge and skills you bring to the table and how you can utilize those skills in a new environment.
Take a look at all of your skills from all of your experiences and then look at the requirements of the job you are applying for. I think you will find you have many transferable skills that perhaps you had not considered before. Recall stories you can tell about how you capitalized on those skills to demonstrate your abilities to prospective employers.