What I Did at Senior Networking Night and Career Fair
One of the most valuable experiences for CIA students is attending Career Fair. It is held three times a year at our Hyde Park campus and brings more than 300 recruiters who are seeking to hire CIA students for a wide range of positions, from back-of-house (BOH) internships to front-of-house (FOH) management positions and everything in between.
I am a senior at the CIA and am scheduled to graduate with my BBA in Food Business Management in December. Because I’m taking the Advanced Concepts in Baking and Pastry bachelor’s concentration, I will be studying in California from September to December and will not be able to attend the fall Career Fair. Luckily, the Center for Career and Academic Advising held an invitation-only Pre-Career Fair Senior Networking Night on Sunday at the Post Road Brew House on campus. This opportunity allowed me to meet possible future employers face-to-face in a setting much smaller than Career Fair. I was able to have in-depth conversations and form strong connections with managers and recruiters who I will remain in contact with over the next few months. Having these connections will hopefully alleviate some of the stress of job hunting while I am on the other side of the country.
On Tuesday, I attended the June Career Fair, where I was able to speak to a variety of potential employers. I loved learning about a wide range of companies who have the type of position that I am looking for. Over the course of the day, I scheduled five interviews with potential employers, which included companies like Great American Restaurant Group, High Street Hospitality, and Wegmans. I am happy with how my interviews went and excited to see how the remainder of my application processes with these companies will go.
I’ve come a long way since I attended my first Career Fair when I didn’t do as much preparation as I should have (though I did end up landing a wonderful internship). I talk about Career Fair fairly frequently while I’m working as a peer mentor in the Center for Career and Academic Advising, and have come up with a few tips on how to be successful at these events:
- Do your research. Having background on some of the companies who are attending will show that you are prepared and give you something to talk about with the recruiters. If you are searching for an internship position, it is important to make sure the companies you are speaking with are CIA internship-approved.
- Know what you are looking for. The companies who attend want to hire students from the CIA. One of the first questions many people will ask you is, “So what type of position are you looking for?” to see if they have a match. Make sure you know what kind of position or what area of the operation you are hoping to work in.
- Have a plan in place. Print off a copy of the floor plan and highlight the tables that you want to be sure to visit.
- Be open to talking to a company you may not have previously considered. Don’t be afraid to approach a company you don’t know much about. The recruiters love informing students about their business and, who knows? You may stumble upon the company of your dreams.
- Dress for success. The general advice is to dress for the position that you’re looking for. If you are in search of an internship or a full-time BOH position, consider wearing your kitchen uniform. If you are interested in a FOH Manager-in-Training (MIT) position, wear your best business casual. This will help the recruiters better envision you in the position you are seeking out. Most important, be sure you are adhering to the CIA dress code and don’t forget to wear your best smile!
- Introduce yourself with a firm handshake. First impressions are key.
- Bring copies of your résumé and your business cards. Recruiters will ask to see your résumé, especially if you are scheduling an interview. Career Fair is also a great time to hand out your personal business card—as well as to collect employers’ business cards for future networking opportunities.
- Schedule interviews with companies who pique your interest. Not only are interviews at Career Fair a great way to find employment, they are also great practice for interviewing. If a company is not planning on holding interviews on Day 2 of Career Fair, ask if there is any possibility of interviewing by phone or Skype.
- Show up to scheduled interviews. It is imperative that you respect the time of the recruiters and show up to any interviews you have scheduled. Not showing up reflects poorly on you and your professionalism, as well as on the CIA.
- Follow up with a thank you. Thank you e-mails are a thoughtful way to conclude your Career Fair experience. In them, be sure to reintroduce yourself, thank the recruiters for their time, and reiterate your interest in their company. These e-mails can also be used to ask any additional questions and inquire about what the next step in the hiring process might look like.
If you follow these tips, you’ll be well on your way to a successful CIA Career Fair! Good luck and happy job hunting!
By Leah Leonard
Leah is a Food Business Management student at the CIA who is taking the Advanced Concepts in Baking and Pastry concentration as part of her bachelor’s degree program. She’s a Resident Assistant (RA) in the lodges and townhouses on campus, helps other students as a peer mentor, and serves as a senior senator for the Student Government Association.