How to Navigate Your First College Career Fair When You’re Super Anxious

Career fairs can be nerve-wracking — I mean, you’re going into a room full of accomplished and successful well-dressed adults, so it’s totally normal. Don’t feel discouraged; instead, go in with a plan of attack. Prepping yourself as much as possible is key in calming your nerves. As the saying goes: “Proper preparation prevents poor performance.” So, let’s get prepped!

The Wide World of Networking

Networking is the key to navigating any career fair. In today’s society, it’s all about who you know when it comes to scoring amazing opportunities. To ease any anxieties you may have, remind yourself that it’s just about making a connection. Just think of it as people having a friendly conversation. Be yourself and go into any interaction with talking points and questions, because you are also there to learn. People love talking about their experiences and hearing about them will benefit you as well. By taking away the hierarchy of it and reminding yourself that it’s laid back, it’ll be easier to convince yourself it’s less of a big deal, helping ease your nerves and allow you to calmly talk to people.

Perfect Your Elevator Pitch

A lot of these career fairs are about selling yourself to potential employers. Perfecting your elevator pitch is a great way to do so ­­–– not only for career fairs but in your day-to-day life as well. You never know when you’ll run into an opportunity that could turn into a possible job, so you want to be prepared. An elevator pitch is essentially what you would say to a potential employer about yourself and your skills, all in the time it would take to ride an elevator. It’s short, sweet, and to the point. Perfect yours and you’ll be going in confident which will really wow employers.

Key things to include in your elevator pitch:

Introduce yourself with a small, brief background on who you are. Give your name, where you go to school, your year, and your most recent experience in the field you are trying to get into. Express your passion and interest in the position your selling yourself for, and finish with what Indeed refers to as your “call to action.” Offer to set up an interview or phone call to discuss any upcoming opportunities. Thank them for their time and remember that body language and eye contact is key! Deliver your pitch with a smile, some enthusiasm, and start and finish with a firm handshake.

Related: How to Perfect Your Elevator Pitch to Get an Internship

Have A General Game Plan

This kind of event can be overwhelming and, at times, confusing. Which table do you visit first? Do you just visit all of them? These questions can trigger some major nerves right when you walk through the doors. To avoid this mayhem, I recommend planning beforehand which set of tables you have an interest in visiting. Prioritize your route so you get the most out of your experience and don’t waste time wandering around aimlessly. Do some light research — nothing crazy, you don’t want to cram like you’re memorizing for a test because that will only stress you out even more. However, given how much time you have, I would make a small list on your phone or on a notecard of your top five or six tables you want to make a priority to visit. Pick four or five you definitely want to make it to, and one or two that are new companies you’re simply interested in. Attend those if you have extra time. Game plans, no matter how detailed or general, will be huge in easing your nerves.

Dress The Part To Feel The Part

When you feel as though you look your best, you perform your best — this is called “enclothed cognition.” In this case, you definitely want to be feeling your best when pitching yourself and networking. Dress to impress, but make sure you still dress for the occasion –– business casual would be my suggestion. Aim for dark pants, either black or navy, a simple, plain top with a blazer, and you’ll be good to go! Stick to neutrals and plain items instead of bright colors and loud patterns. YOU want to be the highlight of your interaction, not your clothes. You will feel the most confident in yourself knowing you look the part.

Related: Prepare for the Fair: The Dos & Don'ts of What to Wear

Get the look:

Come With Your Resume/Portfolio In Hand

You never know when one of your conversations will turn into a possible opportunity. Coming with a copy or two of your resume (and portfolio if necessary) will not only wow employers, but it will also allow you to be taken seriously, boosting your overall confidence. If you have business cards, bring those too! Employers will remember you. Make sure to ask each table you go to for their business card as well, if they have one. Then, you can easily keep track of all the companies you visited, along with their contact info. It will show that you are an eager and prepared individual, and employers love that!

Coming armed with the proper mindset and materials will ease your anxieties, leaving you feeling confident and prepared come career fair day. You got this!

Happy job hunting!

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