Florida Tech’s spring Career Fair was recently held in the Clemente Center, featuring employers from industries like Harris or Rockwell Collins, federal jobs like the Naval Warfare Center or the FBI, and military recruiters such as the Air Force or Navy. Here are five things I have learned and/or observed from attending.
1. Come prepared.
There are many, many employers at these events. You will not be able to visit all of them, so it’s a good idea to look through the list provided by Career Services and pick six or seven you absolutely want to talk to. To take it one step further, it’s a good idea to research what the companies actually do. See what jobs they offer that you are interested in. Some places I thought I was interested in working for turned out to be focused on other things!
2. Ask questions.
Researching the companies beforehand also gives you a better opportunity to ask questions when you talk to the recruiter. They do not have to be complicated or involved questions. Mine are usually something along the lines of “I saw you had such-and-such career opportunities on your website. Do you have any information on that?” Other good questions are how the hiring process works, what day-to-day life might be like at that job, or are positions usually available for that opportunity (if they rarely hire in that field, you may want to try elsewhere).
3. Bring your resume.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but seriously, bring it. You never know who you may end up talking to. A lot of students are not looking to be hired yet because they still have a few years of school, but resumes are collected for internships as well as full-time positions (mostly in the Fall Career Fair, though; most of the internships are closed by the Spring Career Fair). Also, make sure your resume begins with your transferrable skills, which is just a fancy word for skills applicable to whatever position you are looking for. For example, I have a “skills” section at the top of my resume listing my computer programming abilities, among other things.
4. Know your skills.
Unfortunately, it’s not enough to just have your resume all fluffed up with your experiences. The recruiter is going to briefly glance at it; it’s your job to describe your skills in such a way that they want to know more. Also keep in mind they are looking for people who can work for their company, so describing your skills should be more about how you accomplished something rather than the actual research you did. For example, I could tell a recruiter about my summer internship, describing solar flares and how comparing data from different observatories will help improve predicting techniques. Or I could tell them how I wrote an algorithm using the IDL computer language to extract data from various sources and plotted them for a comparison. The first is fine, but the second tells them I can program complex data sets.
5. Collect business cards.
And last, be sure to collect contact information for the recruiters you are really interested in. A few questions by email can go a long way after the fact. Talking to a recruiter for an extended time could help you figure out exactly what the company is looking for or what the position you are interested in is really like. You can always ask for advice about your resume or interview skills, too, since each company looks for slightly different things. Even if you do not get a conversation going and just have a collection of random business cards, they can still be a great way to look through your options when graduation gets closer!
I will warn you, if you are a physics major and plan on attending the next Career Fair, you do need to be prepared for the “I don’t think we’re hiring physics majors …” Industry recruiters tend to be looking for engineers, even if their description for the Career Fair listed physics as possible majors for hire. I have found the phrase “I’m not looking for a physics job” to be quite handy; then you follow that with your skills as I talked about above. Because something I did not know when I was a freshman — yes, you can get hired with a Bachelor’s in physics. No, it will not be doing physics research, however.
The Career Fair provides a great way for Florida Tech students to see what jobs are available and to learn what recruiters are looking for. Freshman and sophomores should go just to see what kind of options they can think about as they continue their degree. Juniors and seniors should definitely be going to look for internships and full-time positions.