Career Fair: Perseverance is the Key in Job Hunting
By Amy H. Chiu, Tech Brand Content Developer
What’s better than a firm handshake, a strong resume, and a great impression?
I remember first walking into career fairs seven years ago as an undergraduate student. Before the career fair, I was busy researching what a professional outfit meant. I stood in front of the mirror, changing from one business outfit to another. My feet felt awkward in those black closed-toe shoes, and I practiced smiling while saying my full name again and again.
Walking in the career fair, I saw other students and alumni holding copies of resumes in one hand and the map of the employer booths in another. Some looked stressed, and others looked excited while practicing their introduction line in the corner. Larger companies had long lines that averaged one hour or longer, like lining up for a ride at a theme park. I remember feeling overwhelmed, wondering how to stand out. The students and alumni were just as competitive and intelligent. I had seven seconds to make a good impression and five minutes to make my face memorable.
There were times when I started to wonder: When would someone take a chance on me? When would it be my turn? There were tears of frustration and a lot of nervous perspiration. I ask myself for the 10,000th time, “What does that person have that I don’t? If they take me, I will give my best and everything I’ve got. I promise.”
The stress of finding a summer internship and a first job was tremendous. Imagine waking up scrolling through social media and seeing many of your classmates posting, “I’m so proud to announce I’ll be starting as a (job title) at XYZ company,” followed by a sea of compliments. You check your inbox and refresh again, still nothing. No one talks about the rejections in the sea of positive social media posts on Instagram.
I remember feeling overwhelmed before attending my first career fair, I prepared and showcased myself by setting up a strong LinkedIn profile, writing a cover letter, and revising my resume. I even hired a career coach, visiting my strengths and weaknesses. I filled out worksheets, took personality tests, spent days and nights reading about my favorite companies on the list. On top of that, I visited the career center, attended more than 20+ workshops, and worked with counselors. I wanted to draft the “perfect” one-line bio on my profile, thinking it could make a difference. There were mock interviews, and I signed up repeatedly, hoping the skills would come in handy one day.
At the end of the day, I learned having a positive mindset in the process is just as crucial as any training. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed in the interview process. Allow yourself to be okay with that.
After finishing three internships and entering the workforce for a few years, I learned the value of perseverance. Speaking with many ADP tech associates as part of my job, I’ve noticed a common theme in their advice for future technologists: Do not be afraid.
Some other standard advice: continue to focus on your goal, ask questions, look for mentorship opportunities. Rejections are not the end of the world. It takes rejections to give you time to reflect, improve, and revise. Fear of rejection shouldn’t keep you from applying.
From the recruiter’s perspective
The hiring process is also two-sided. Recruiters want to find the star to add to their team, while candidates want to be the ones that shine. Sometimes people don’t recognize all the effort that goes into hiring and recruiting. Many students think about “impressing” the company rather than fitting into the company culture or the role.
I had an opportunity to speak with Lisa S., Senior Director of Talent Acquisition, and gained some interesting insights. Lisa and her campus recruiters want students to make the best-informed decisions on accepting an offer and ensuring the placement is an excellent match for both parties.
During our conversation, I was surprised to learn how frustrated companies get when students accept a job offer only to renege right before their start date to go to a different company.
I wondered if this happens more frequently in the world we live in today compared to 20 years ago. And does this occur only in tech, where most large corporations offer rich compensation to candidates? Is this a generational phenomenon? There’s not a right answer, but let’s observe and use these open questions in discussion with our teams.
When it comes to virtual and in-person recruiting events, Lisa encourages attendees to come prepared. From digital files to physical copies of resumes, have them ready. You never know who you will meet at the fair. Like it or not, a messy room in your zoom background shows the recruiter something about you.
Lisa and I also talked about the interview processes, and one thing stood out to me. Dear future candidates, please don’t memorize cheat sheet answers from online resources. The recruiters know, trust me, they know. Their recruiting experience can spot right away if your answer is authentic or not. I understand presenting your best self is essential, but please answer interview questions from the bottom of your heart. It sounds cliché, but verbally highlighting what you genuinely want makes you stand out.
Where do you want to be when you grow up? The last time you answered this question probably was when you had to write an essay for a homework assignment at school. I challenge you to find a balance between the job you are searching for and your passion.
It’s good to have a stable job, but great to have a job you love.
“Do you want to work in product development? Do you want to work in management? Have a definitive path and speak to it,” Lisa said. “Come to us and say ‘I want to be a (job title) because of X, Y, and Z.’ The more information the candidate provides at the career fair, the better for us to place them in the right area.”
Come to the ADP booth and learn about the six-week extended GPT Development Program. It’s an opportunity for students to meet with leaders and understand our products. You will make a real contribution if you are lucky enough to get chosen for the program. One of our students developed an algorithm to match graduating students with leaders based on their top five choices. Everyone has a voice here, no matter the title or years of service.
If I could tell my younger self one thing before I walked into that career fair, it would be: Go for it! Talk to the recruiter, and don’t be afraid to show your curiosity. ADP’s campus recruiting team spends time reading all the resumes they collect, but it’s the impression you make that sets you apart. We hire in various settings, including tech conferences, virtual fairs, and employee referral programs.
Fill your career path with pleasant surprises. Every decision adds up and reroutes you to a different place, preparing and building you for the next challenge. I’m excited to explore mine, and I’d like to invite you to take on your own unique adventure here at ADP.
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