A career fair is a great way to talk to employers, find out what’s going on in your industry, and advance your professional agenda. It is free and open to all ACS members who are registered for the national meeting. If you plan to participate, check out the tips below on how to make the most of this opportunity.
Before You Go
To get the most out of the career fair, you should register now, so employers can search your information. Once you are registered, you can post your resume, browse jobs and request interviews.
You need to have clear idea of what you’re looking for in a job – an objective that you can state in 1-2 sentences (like the objective on your resume) when you meet new people. You may have more than one, if you’re open to multiple types of positions. If you do, make sure to communicate the right one to the right people. Know what you must have in a new position, what you’d like to have, and what you can live without.
Research which companies will be in attendance at the fair, and learn as much as you can about them. You may be surprised where the opportunities are. Don’t forget to look at speakers in technical sessions, and identify ones to whom you want to talk. Not just chemical companies, but personal care products, food, small companies, federal government, etc. all hire chemists to do all sorts of things, so investigate all opportunities before you go, and make note of the ones in which you are most interested.
Pack a large stack of business cards and 20 copies of your resume, and know where the copy center is in case you need more. Pack for the weather where you are going, and of course, dress professionally.
At The Fair
During the Fair, you should check your account regularly for updates, and keep in touch with employers who contact you.
Once you are on-site, there will be lots to do. On a walk-in basis there will be workshops on a variety of career related topics, including Targeting the Job Market, Resume Preparation, Effective Interviewing, First Year On the Job, Proposal Writing, and so on. You will also be able to sign up for a 30 minute personal resume review, or for a mock interview with an ACS Career Consultant. Sign up early, as all slots usually fill, and you can sign up no more than one day ahead of time.
Monday morning at 9:30 am there will be a welcome mixer for candidates and employers. This will be a way to mix INFORMALLY with both employers and other candidates. This is not a place to ask for a job, but a place to talk with employers and find out what they are looking for in general (technical skills, interpersonal skills, etc.), what the market is like, and so on.
What to Expect
If possible, have a mock interview before you start real interviews, to identify and fix any problem areas.
If you are scheduled for a real interview, do much more research on the company. Make sure to be on time (which means 10 minutes early), and allow for travel time.
To begin, shake hands, look the interviewer in the eye, and introduce yourself. Sit down after invited to do so, or after the interviewer does. Throughout the interview be positive, don’t interrupt, and avoid nervous habits. Listen to what they have to say, as well as telling them about yourself.
Be prepared to talk about your research for a 5 minute mini-seminar, with a flow sheet or diagrams handy to guide the discussion.
At end stand up, shake hands again, thank them for the interview, and ask them for their business card.
Make sure to send a thank you note, most likely an email before the end of the national meeting. Follow up with the company if you haven’t heard from them in 2-3 weeks, to let them know you’re still interested.
This article was written by Lisa M. Balbes, Ph.D. of Balbes Consultants. Lisa is a scientific communication consultant and author of: “Nontraditional Careers for Chemists,” published by Oxford University Press (2007).