Career conferences are an integral part of the internship and job searching process. The first big one to hit this year was National Black MBA Conference in Houston. I made the trek down there to bask in the humidity and career opportunities.
Here’s what I learned.
Apply to jobs ahead of time
Lots of these conferences have job boards with opportunities you can apply for ahead of time. Take advantage of this opportunity. The companies want to meet people at their booths, sure, but they also want to schedule interviews with the strong candidates they find out about beforehand. I made a point of applying to jobs before I got to Texas, and walked into the conference with an interview already on my schedule. The more jobs you apply for, and the earlier you apply, the more likely it is you’ll land an interview.
Plan your attack of the floor
These conferences are massive with tons of employer booths to potentially visit. Print out the full list of companies, along with the floor plan, and decide where you want to go. Highlight the companies on your list, find them on the map, and draw out your route. Think about your top 10 companies and make sure you visit them first. Interview slots fill up fast. Be one of the first to make a great impression so you can snag an interview.
Practice your Tell-Me-About-Yourself (TMAY)
You’ll be talking to a lot of people, and companies will be talking to a lot of candidates, so make sure you’re prepared and utilize your time with each person wisely. Practice introducing yourself, your background, what makes you unique, why you’re getting an MBA, and why you want to do what you want to do. And do all that in two minutes. Yes, it’s a lot. And that’s exactly why you’ll need to practice.
Treat the recruiters as people (because that’s what they are)
Recruiters are talking to hundreds of people, back to back, and it’s exhausting. So make sure you treat them like actual people – not robots to speak at and throw your resume in front of. Ask them how their day is going, or if it’s the first time they’ve been to the conference, etc. Demonstrate that you want to engage with them as a person, not just blindly recite your spiel. This can set the stage for a more genuine conversation, and potentially a more memorable one, which is exactly what you want.
Attend the receptions
If a company you are interested in is having a reception in the evening, make sure you stop by. It’s a great opportunity to network with more than just the person you spoke with at the booth. If you also have an interview with them or had one that day, it shows you’re truly interested in the organization. Just don’t take too much advantage of the open bar that will most likely be there; keep it professional.
–By Samprithi “Sammy” Santosh. Santosh is a 2021 MBA candidate with a concentration in marketing. She worked in advertising as an account manager in Richmond, Va., before moving to Maryland to pursue her MBA.