You marked your calendar for the career fair coming up next week. You polished your resumé, you did your homework on the companies that are going to be there, practiced your elevator pitch, and you know your strengths just in case any questions come up.
Great start. Finally, you need to shift your attention to the first impression. The way you come across in that first meeting can set the standard of how someone views all of your work, for better or worse. Make sure your first impression will leave feelings of professionalism and preparedness with any future connection.
Dress to impress
55% of first impressions are based on physical appearance, so if you have all the above ready, it’s time to make sure your look is up to the same level of preparation. A good tip for dressing is to go one “step” above the typical dress code of the industry you’re interested in. For example, if the dress code for most companies is casual, opt for a more business casual look. This shows that you’re in touch with the industry culture and familiar with what your future could look like. Check out specific companies’ social media pages and websites, or even Glassdoor to get a better idea of what you should wear.
It’s important to keep in mind, however, that even if the dress code is casual, it’s always smart to dress professionally while networking. This means wearing conservative, neutral-colored clothing that fits comfortably.
Deal with insecurities
So, your clothes are ironed, and the outfit prepared, but now you need to deal with any cosmetic issues that might distract you. Maybe you struggle with male pattern baldness or yellowing teeth, or maybe you have some deeper issues with self-image. Whatever your insecurities are, if they cause you to lose confidence, it’s important to address them ahead of the event. But, don’t stress; there are often many different ways to treat cosmetic issues. For example, a doctor can prescribe a medication to help you combat receding hairlines and balding or suggest a whitening toothpaste to make sure your pearly whites are shining.
Alternatively, try out some lifestyle changes to manage your issues. Make sure you don’t skip out on styling your hair. If you walk in with bedhead, potential employers may take you as being lazy or not serious. And, avoid drinking beverages that stain your teeth the day before, like red wine, or coffee, the morning of to keep your teeth as clean as possible. Or, if you think your issues are more personal, consider speaking with a counselor about what could be causing your insecurities, and create a plan to develop more self-esteem. Projecting your self-confidence is critical in impressing at events, so it's important you feel ready to enter every networking opportunity with your head held high.
When networking, it’s always important to be ready to share your information and experience. Your preparedness and organization in these early meetings can go a long way in impressing potential employers. Keep multiple (fresh) copies of your resumé or samples of your work on-hand. A good way to keep your resumés clean is to use a resumé folder. This handy folder is a great spot to have pre-written notes on companies you’re interested in while staying organized and professional-looking.
A folder is also a good spot to store a few personal business cards that you can give to people as a tangible way to remember you. Make sure you also have a pen on-hand in case there’s any notes to take during your conversations.
Utilize the final handshake
After you have your conversation, make sure you sign-off with a firm handshake and eye contact, and say their name: “Thanks for talking to me, Sarah, I loved learning about your company and hope we can be in touch.” This shows you paid attention from the start and adds a personal touch. Remember, these people are likely meeting dozens, if not hundreds of other interested jobseekers, so be as personal as you can to make the best first impression.
You might also want to think of sending out a hand-written note to the people you met just thanking them in more detail. A hand-written note like this makes you stand out even more and can go a long way in developing their lasting impression of you.
Congratulations! You’re all prepped for your big career fair, now go out there and impress!