October 5, 2020
It’s an ordinary Tuesday morning. I awake energized and ready to attend my first virtual career fair since finally completing my last semester of undergraduate college. “This should be easy,” I said to myself. Not to mention, I had earned internships from previous career fairs my university held in the past so I thought this virtual stuff should be the same exact thing, except online.
I continued to ponder the positive aspects of creating new relationships via the internet and how much multitasking I can get done. After all, I can wear sweatpants and still rock my new Express button-down all while snuggling with my puppy, who is out of my camera view. When I logged into the career fair portal, I sat alone in my makeshift queens-born apartment office, which serves 50% of its use as a music studio, and tried my hardest to hide my pair of Technic 1200s loosely visible in the background.
Before I knew it, the time came. As the clock struck 1 pm, I ventured inside of a chat room with a printed version of my resume and a cup of coffee ready to chat with employers and recruiters. I met with representatives from pharmaceutical industries, and recruiters from the commercial construction industry. Our informational interviews went alright. I received all the information I could have asked for in the storytelling side of things, except the actual industries of my liking did not show up. When I did speak with certain representatives, my turntables felt like a distraction when brought up in discussion.
This experience sparked my realization of how important it is to have a comfortable setting available to you when you are conducting any sort of professional conversation through video conferencing.
The significance of this story lies in my many points of failure. Not only do we need to practice mindfulness while creating new, meaningful connections virtually, but we also need to be certain our priorities are in place. I ended up rearranging my entire makeshift office into a welcoming place of work that is only intended for me to conduct business. Studies have shown, it is healthier to wear an entire outfit to work even if you are working out of your living room.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us a lot about how many tasks we can get done from home, especially now that we have no commute time. We have to use that time wisely.
Nearly every aspect of job hunting is accessible to anyone with a wifi connection. To increase your chances of success during your virtual job search, check out this list of tips I’ve accumulated to help you get one step closer to getting your foot in the door.
Here’s what you need to know before attending a virtual career fair:
Research your industry.
- Go to your favorite news website and pick three top news categories. That is a great place to start since you’re already studying it and have a prior interest in those topics.
- Research every company that you are interested in prior to any virtual career fair. It will show. For example, the recruiter might notice this when asking you what kinds of jobs you’re interested in.
- Read reviews on Glassdoor. Search for a specific company and go to the reviews tab to see what employees are talking about or to see what the interview questions are like.
- See what the culture is like and find out who their competitors are. You’ll find this by browsing the company website. While you’re at it, check out their board of directors. Is it diverse? Is the company’s mission one that aligns with your values? Do you see yourself working for this company for more than 5 years? 10 years? 15 years?
- Write down a 30-second pitch and practice it beforehand in order to memorize and execute this pitch flawlessly. No one knows you better than you.
- Try this formula: What you did (I was doing ___), what you are doing (I currently provide___ with ____), where you want to go (With my extensive experience in _____, I’m seeking new opportunities in ___). Memorize this and practice in the mirror beforehand! The key here is to be confident in who you are!
- Fully dress to impress, not only in your LinkedIn photos but also in any professional, public profile you have. Dress as you would for a normal interview from head to toe.
- Google yourself. Is it an accurate representation of who you are as a professional?
- If you live with multiple people or have roommates in your household, let everyone in the house know ahead of time what you will be doing an interview, and need space to focus. The idea here is to be fully present during your interview with minimal distraction.
- Find a quiet, appropriate, and organized location to make the call – a desk with a plain background is fine, but be aware of visible items that could be a distraction. Double-check the corners of your frame!
- Do a sound and connection check beforehand with a friend or family member and do a lighting check – Do you look washed out? Is it too dark?
- Have all the necessary documents either printed or open on your computer – resume, cover letter, portfolio – in front of you before the Fair begins, so you can reference them easily and not have to constantly click your audible mouse during a meeting.
- Practice speaking to the camera, not the screen – it’s hard not to look! Put your mini Skype-window of your image below the webcam itself so you will appear to be making eye contact
- You made it to the fair. Be aware that employers have a limited amount of time to speak with you, even virtually!
- When inquiring, ask questions including the next steps in the hiring process, and take note of application deadlines for your dream companies.
- Stay on target. Waste no time on creating a relationship with that company you really want to work for.
- Inquire about informational interviews with hiring managers. See if you fit. Never stop seeking information for potential leads.
- Take notes to remember information to include in your follow-up email.
- Talk with a variety of companies even if they don’t have immediate openings in your field.
- Afterward, make an effort to follow up within 24-hours to any and all those who gave their time to help you with information during the fair. This could be the difference between being remembered or forgotten by a hiring manager.
- Reflect. How do you think you did and why? What could have you done to make this process smoother? Write that down and manifest a plan to overcome any hurdles.
- Share the wealth! Continue to build your brand and help others in similar positions as you to grow and become better versions of themselves.