In the iSchool Career Center, we are literally counting down the days until employers descend on Hinds Hall for iCareer Day on Monday, September 29.

In fact, iCareer Day kicks off a series of career fairs and related events happening thoughout campus as part of #SUCareerWeek. We encourage students to take advantage of as many of the events as possible. The key to doing so is knowing why it’s important to attend, and to prepare ahead to make the most of your time while you’re at a career fair.

Why You Should Go

Most people apply for a job or internship online without ever interacting with a human being from the organization. That makes it tough to stand out from the competition. So if you meet someone from an organization, that’s a truly unique chance to make a positive impression in-person, learn more than you ever could on a website about a role/company, and help separate yourself from the online masses.

Even if you’re a freshman or sophomore and some opportunities aren’t open to you yet, going to the career fair will give you a chance to get a head start on the process–and feel even more confident when it’s time to convince an employer you’re the right fit for the position.

Finally, what if you don’t go and you miss out on the first step to your dream job? (No, I am not above striking FOMO into the hearts of students everywhere when it’s for a good cause.)

Research Employers

First, see which employers are scheduled to come to iCareer Day or other career fairs on campus by logging into MySlice and visiting OrangeLink.

You can also see what positions they are coming to the fair to recruit for–and these job descriptions might help you craft a more tailored resume. as well.

Identify which companies you are most interested in, but be sure to keep an open mind, since sometimes the conversation you have with an employer will make you reconsider a position you initially dismissed.

Now that you know who is coming, the worst thing you can do at a career fair is to walk up to an employer and ask, “So what does your company do?”

You only get one chance to make a good impression, and asking a question you can answer with a simple Google search is not going to cut it. Remember, the benefit of the career fair is that you can ask questions that go beyond what you can find online–but you still need to start there. Not sure what to look at besides the company website? You can follow them on social media, set Google Alerts, and follow these research tips from SU Career Services.

Access Info Sessions

In addition to online research, there are opportunities to hear directly from the companies before the career fair. Some of the companies are hosting information sessions on campus in the next two weeks. These sessions will allow you to learn more about the company and potentially meet the representatives who will also be at the career fair. This way the fair can become an opportunity to continue a conversation with someone you know, instead of introducing yourself to a stranger.

Between what you can learn online and in-person, you should be able to answer the following questions:

1) What does the company do? If it’s a large firm, also focus on the department or business function you are targeting.

2) What is the company’s mission, vision, or values?

3) What are some additional characteristics that make the company unique?

This research should not only help you ask more creative, engaging questions but it should also give you some insight on what experiences and skills you’ll want to highlight about yourself. This sort of high-quality conversation is what impresses employers, and makes going to the career fair worth your time!

Been to a career fair before? What advice would you give? Share in the comments.