The Career Center’s Fall Career Expo is coming up on September 29th, and in order to help you prepare, we’re running a series called “10 Days of Expo.” Each day until 9/29 we’ll discuss helpful tips and information, along with some featured employers that will be in attendance (check out the previous few days if you’ve missed them). Today we talk about how to come up with a short, but effective way of introducing yourself to recruiters at the Expo.
You’ve looked at the list. You’ve done some research. It wasn’t enough, though. It’s Fall Career Expo, you’re the next person in line at an employer table, and you have no idea what to say when it’s your turn.
Relax. That moment isn’t inevitable, but to avoid it does require preparation. Narrowing your list down to a handful of organizations and learning more about them through research is a great start. Yet the most fundamental piece of information that you need to know going into Expo isn’t something you can get from an organization’s website. You need to know what you bring to the table. The skills that you have to offer. Don’t get hung up on titles, or your major, or whether or not you’ve held a bunch of internships with well-known organizations. Those things are only useful insofar as they can be a vehicle to describe your skills. It’s what you did, and what it took to accomplish those things, that will show a potential employer that you’re someone to remember.
When it comes to demonstrating the value of your academic experience, it’s important to focus less on the specific topics you’re learning, and instead on the generalizable skills that it takes to succeed in your academic program. Research and inquiry, critical thinking, problem solving, and communication are just a few of the skills that employers are looking for most in recent graduates. You’ll notice two things about that list:
- Those skills are not attached directly to any specific major
- Those skills are the hallmark of many liberal arts grads
Think about how you demonstrated those skills in your courses, particularly the skills you liked to use. We have Career Guides on our website for many majors, so take a look there if you need some help.
Talking about extracurricular involvement is often missed, yet it’s something that so many Michigan students bring to the table. We have over 1200 registered student organizations on campus, and there’s a good chance that you have had a deep level of involvement with at least one organization on campus in your time here. The beauty of extracurricular experience is because organizations are student-run, it means that you’ve had the chance to make a direct impact on the successes of your group in ways that you may have been unable to do in a job or internship.
But how do you talk about it? “Leadership experience” is the thing most students list as a takeaway from their extracurricular activity, but I think that’s a somewhat lazy answer. What do you mean when you say “leadership”? Be specific, pointing out the way you used organizational skills to coordinate all the members of your exec board as you successfully planned an event. Or the way you sought out younger members of the group and provided mentorship as they became more involved and invested in the organization’s success. Simply being ‘in-charge’ of some area of your organization tells them nothing. I’ll say it again because this is important: it’s the skills and accomplishments that you need to highlight.
It’s time to put it all together. Despite the hundreds of other students in the room, you know exactly what you bring to the table, and why you’re standing in front of each employer’s table waiting to chat with them. You’ve matched your skills to the job and company descriptions you’ve seen in your organization research. Going beyond the simple “name + major” introduction, briefly (about 30 seconds) describe yourself. For example, you could mention that you study psychology because of your interest in how the mind works, particularly in what motivates people. You’ve used some of that knowledge in practical ways as you helped with marketing and recruitment for Dance Marathon, encouraging more students to join as dancers or donate to the cause. You can finish up by explaining that those are the reasons you’re interested in marketing and advertising, and would love to learn more about what sorts of opportunities their company offers for people like you. The rest of the conversation will depend on the direction that you and the recruiter take it, but remember: focus on skills, interests, and accomplishments! Talking about these three things as they relate to the work the company does will be your best way to make a strong impression.