By: Jeffrey Low
You may get intimidated by the networking process from time to time, and you’re not alone. (Introvert, here!) But networking at events like job fairs is such a great way to put yourself out there, learn and discover new possibilities. Additionally, networking isn’t just about sharing details about yourself. It’s also about connecting with others by asking good questions to learn about different perspectives, experiences and possibilities.
Plus, the connections you make through networking can open the door to unexpected opportunities in the future. And when it comes to job searching, the more opportunities and connections, the better — especially during a global pandemic.
For Dana, a fourth-year Social Science (Political Science) student at McMaster, attending the 2020 Connect to Careers Job Fair helped her discover the reality of networking: establishing connections and maintaining relationships with employers will pay off in the end.
We chatted with Dana to learn more about her experience at Connect to Careers and her perspective as a job seeker during COVID-19.
Note: The 2020 Connect to Careers Job Fair was an in-person event, as it occurred before COVID-19 restrictions were put in place. In 2021, Connect to Careers is taking place virtually.
What was your goal in attending Connect to Careers in 2020? Did you do anything specific to prepare?
When I attended the Connect to Career Job Fair, my primary goal was to approach companies that I had previously applied to and to meet new potential employers. To prepare, I went to the Connect to Careers website and checked which companies were attending. After finding out which companies were attending the fair, I made a list of the specific jobs I had previously applied to, information about that company, and some things I particularly liked about the company. Additionally, I made sure to print out several copies of my resume to provide to employers. In doing so, I was able to approach employers and introduce myself and inform them that I had applied to their company, and explained why I was particularly interested in the position and the company.
What happened at the fair? How many employers did you chat with? Tell me a little bit about your experience.
At the fair, I approached companies that I had previously applied to, and made sure to connect with these employers on LinkedIn. Also, I approached companies that I had not applied to and made sure to introduce myself and provide them with a copy of my resume. In doing so, I ended up chatting with more people than I had anticipated and had made some really great connections along the way.
What was your approach to following up with employers after the fair?
After the fair, I made sure to connect with the employers I met on LinkedIn. When connecting with the employers, I made sure to include a message which introduced myself and provided the employer with some specific details about the conversation we had. When messaging an employer on LinkedIn, I believe it is important to include something in your message about a particular topic you talked about, this will make it easier for them to remember you. Additionally, in the message, I told the employer that I would love to stay in touch and learn more about the possible job prospects at their company.
How did COVID-19 impact your job search process after the fair? If you encountered any barriers or challenges, how did you overcome them?
At first, it was difficult to adjust to the idea of no in-person contact. However, I feel like the COVID-19 pandemic had pushed me to make new connections on new avenues, particularly LinkedIn. Since the pandemic, I have become more active on LinkedIn, a site I wish I had used more before the lockdown. I believe that LinkedIn is a great way to connect to new employers and a great way to stay in touch with many employers, especially for individuals who may be less confident to approach an employer.
For example, I met an RBC representative at the fair. After the fair, I connected with him on LinkedIn and discussed the possibility of a job interview. However, due to COVID-19, the interview never occurred. About a month ago, I messaged him again on LinkedIn and asked to stay in contact. He ended up asking me for my resume and referred me for a job interview. Although I still have not been hired to work at RBC, attending the Connect to Career Job Fair has opened up a possible job opportunity, which I do not believe that I would have secured otherwise.
After attending Connect to Careers, did your perspective on job fairs or networking change? Or your approach to job searching? If so, how?
[Connect to Careers] was my first career fair. I enjoyed attending the fair as I believe that I have strong communication skills. I think the fair has shown me the value of networking, which is a skill I never truly utilized in the past. I believe the fair is a great opportunity to show employers your true personality, which is very difficult to do in a resume, especially when competing with hundreds of other applicants.
Do you have any advice for fair attendees this year? Or job seekers in general? Your McMaster community would love to know!
One tip I have is to be persistent. The connections you make at the career fair should not be temporary connections, instead, you should try to stay in touch with these employers. Try to stay active on LinkedIn and like their posts, they will notice. Maybe down the line you can message them again and land yourself an interview. Just don’t give up and stay persistent!
Have you registered for Connect to Careers?
This year, the fair will take place virtually on March 3, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.