Do you want to meet people who are interested in the same things as you? Do you want to learn more about a specific industry? Going to a conference may be for you. I went to the Society of Women Engineers Regional Conference in downtown Houston. It was a nerve-wracking experience getting out of the hedges for a conference with complete strangers from other schools, not to mention a career fair in the middle of the schedule… so to prepare, here are some tips I have from my experience at my first conference:
Before the conference:
1) DON’T FORGET YOUR RESUME. I sat next to a couple of students from another university who didn’t know to bring their resume to the career fair. DON’T BE LIKE THEM! It’s easy to forget when the career fair is wedged between workshops, speakers, etc, but remember to print many copies of your resume before you get to the conference. Print a little more than you expect. I printed about 9, and had to limit myself as to who I would give my resume to because I underestimated my interests in different companies.
2) Bring a folder to hold not just your resume, but also the mountain of the brochures/flyers the recruiters give you. I like bringing a nice Rice folder.
3) Dress in the proper attire. For the SWE Regional Conference, it was business casual. If you’re unsure, contact the Rice officers (in my case, the Rice SWE officers) who are organizing/publicizing the event.
During the conference:
4) If there’s an option to go to the career fair at an earlier time, do it. Recruiters get very tired in the afternoon and some companies may even leave early. By going to the earlier session, you get the recruiters at their most energetic.
5) Approach the companies that aren’t the top of your list first. This is a good way to get your nerves out of your system and practice your introduction. A good introduction is never: “What does your company do?” Try making a 2-sentence intro with your name, your interests, and how your interests brought you to their booth.
6) If you have experience in the field you are interested in, mention it! For example, I always started out with how I was interested in the oil industry because it’s surprising that only 40% of the oil in a reservoir could be recovered using conventional methods; the challenge of extracting the rest interested me to pursue oil recovery research in a lab at Rice, and now I want to get more hands-on experience of the oil industry in company “X”. Many Rice professors have big names in certain industries; one recruiter was impressed with the professor of the lab I was working in, and quickly wrote that down on my resume. Explaining your interest with proof (ex: I joined a lab based on my interest) really makes you stand out from other people.
7) Don’t hog the recruiter; get your information, get contact info and move on! Many people are in line for their time with the recruiter, so once your major questions are answered, ask for their contact information or how to learn more about the company. Don’t be offended if the recruiter does not give out their email— sometimes it’s company policy, or they don’t want to have thousands of emails when they are done with the fair. Once you get their name, you can find them on LinkedIn and connect with them. You can also use their name in the future to introduce yourself to others in that company.
8) Learn from the workshops and other events going on! A conference is a great time to meet other people with the same interests as you, and share ideas on the industry you want to go into. I hope all of you take advantage of a conference as it not only helps with job-finding, but it’s a great way to learn about topics you are interested in.
- Lisa Chiba, Wiess Peer Career Advisor