On September 12, more than 1,800 students are expected to attend Boston College’s annual Fall Career & Internship Fair—the University’s largest networking event on campus.
Large and comprehensive, the fall fair is one of 18 on-campus opportunities to meet, greet, and impress employers scheduled for the 2017–18 academic year. More than 500 recruiters from across the country will visit campus throughout the year to interview students for internships and employment in a range of fields, according to Joseph Du Pont, associate vice president for Student Affairs, Career Services. The events range in size and scope from major fairs to networking nights with professionals in specific fields. Upperclassmen in particular have learned to take advantage of these opportunities, which play a signal role in facilitating the four-year journey through career discernment, the job search, and achieving their vocational goals—if your student is prepared.
Career-conscious juniors and seniors will arrive at the September 12 event with planning tools: lists of organizations they’ve researched thoroughly and meticulously updated résumés. Dressed in thoughtfully assembled business attire, they will have rehearsed their introductory greetings to select employer representatives among the 150 expected to attend, from industries that range from healthcare, to business/finance, to communications/marketing, to arts and entertainment, to sciences, and government.
Based on a Boston College Career Center survey of 2016 graduates, this mix of on-campus networking opportunities leads to jobs. When asked to identify the top three resources that led to their full-time position, the recent graduates most often chose on-campus recruiting (42 percent), career fairs (38 percent), and networking through Boston College (37 percent).
If students want to take advantage of the fair and subsequent employer visits to campus, they have to be prepared, observes Du Pont. "Students need to learn how to build relationships with employers throughout the academic year,” he explains. "t’s a real skill." He recommends that students take the following steps before meeting with employers:
1. Start with a résumé. A polished résumé, says Du Pont, is "essential" for students attending networking events or participating in on-campus recruiting. The Career Center offers a step-by-step guide for writing a résumé on its website, in addition to résumé-writing workshops throughout the academic year. Students can also work with a Career Center advisor to learn to tailor their résumés to the hiring needs of specific industries or companies recruiting on campus.
2. Build a "brand." An impressive résumé alone is no longer enough, says Du Pont. Students need "a brand"—a combination of standout résumé and professional online presence that showcases their accomplishments, skills, coursework, and past jobs. By sophomore year, he says, every Boston College undergraduate should have a LinkedIn profile that complements his or her résumé and sets them apart as potential employees.
He recommends that students drafting résumés and LinkedIn profiles work with a Career Center advisor who can help translate their descriptions of academic achievements and extracurricular experiences into marketable skills. The Career Center also offers an online tutorial on creating an effective LinkedIn profile, and on September 6 will host a LinkedIn profile and résumé review night where students can get feedback on their brand building from Career Center staff.
3. Do the research. Your student will get more out of any one-on-one meeting at a career event if he or she has learned about the recruiter’s organization ahead of time. The Career Center posts lists of visiting employers and the types of positions they’re recruiting for on EagleLink about two weeks before a networking event—giving students time to gather background information on organizations that interest them and to plan a few questions for representatives in advance. Students who have done their research, says Du Pont, “often feel more comfortable talking to employers and can take the lead a bit more in conversations."
And while students might be tempted to try to meet as many employers as possible during a three- or four-hour career fair, Du Pont advises picking five to 10 targets from the list of participants. "Anything more gets overwhelming," he explains.
Connect with the Career Center:
Encourage your student to meet with one of the Career Center's Career Coachs, to consult with the online resources sections on their website, and to attend one or more of the Career Center's networking and educational events throughout the semester.
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4. Know how to make a first impression. Most students’ interactions with an employer at a career fair or networking event last one to five minutes, says Du Pont. With such limited time, he says it’s essential that students know how to make a "substantive” introduction and offer a quick and compelling response to "Tell me about yourself."
The Career Center organizes workshops on crafting an "elevator pitch"—a 30-second speech that sums up a student’s unique set of skills and how they might benefit an employer. Students can also meet one on one with the center’s "experts in residence"—professionals from different industries who share knowledge and career advice—to practice their introductions, elevator pitches, and responses to common interview questions.
5. Take time to reflect. After the résumés and follow-up e-mails are out, Du Pont recommends that students pause to reflect on their interactions with employers. For instance, he says, students might think about what they learned about their interests or goals; which employers and organizations excited them the most; and whether they need to sharpen their introduction or elevator pitch. Setting up an appointment with a Career Center advisor, says Du Pont, can help students assess their experiences and develop an action plan for future networking events. Most of all, it can help students gain perspective on what Du Pont believes should be the ultimate goal for any networking event: to explore. "We want students to have the mindset that they’re there to look at all the different possibilities," he says.
— Alicia Potter