Deconstructing a Career Fair: What to Know about Your Student’s Job Search

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When the Rolling Stones played at Georgia Tech this summer, a caravan of 18-wheelers funneled tons of steel into the narrow streets around Bobby Dodd stadium to erect a stage worthy of living rock legends. Those of us on the staff of the Center for Career Discovery and Development (“C2D2”) had carte blanche, front row seats at this extravaganza – not for the actual concert (don’t we wish!) but for the construction and dismantling of the elaborate stage that was erected on Grant Field.

C2D2 is housed in the Bill Moore Student Success Center, which is contiguous with the west side of the stadium and boasts a wall of windows overlooking Grant Field. From our “front row seats,” we were riveted by the massive effort that went into the set-up and tear-down of this historic event.

What does this have to do with your students’ job searches and the career fairs held on campus? Fast forward a couple of months from the Rolling Stones spectacle, and you would find yourself in the midst of construction and, two days later, the dismantling of the annual September all-majors career fair in the Campus Recreation Center. With 5,000 square feet of carpet laid temporarily on the basketball courts, and booths put up by more than 2,000 recruiters representing nearly 400 companies, our career fair is not exactly on the scale of Mick and Keith’s operation, but it’s a big production for campus.

The annual fall career fair is a signature event for Georgia Tech, and we in C2D2 take great pride in our ability to attract so many prestigious employers who flock to register for it. But where does this career fair fit into your student’s employment search? Is the career fair the way your student will secure his or her internship, co-op, or full-time job? Maybe. Maybe not. Here’s how to deconstruct a career fair to understand its place in your student’s career development journey:

One of many opportunities

The annual all-majors career fair in the fall is only one of nearly 30 career fairs held at Georgia Tech throughout the year. Your student might find the more specialized fairs – focusing, for example, on chemical engineering, computing, architecture, or student-athletes to name only a few – to be more targeted ways to connect with employers in their fields.

In addition, the C2D2 Internship and Co-op Fair held early in spring semester is a more focused way for students who aren’t yet seniors to connect with employers. And for those considering careers in non-profit, government, or education, we will be holding a Non-Profit Networking Night, targeting about 30 employers, also in early spring semester.

Value in virtual

Major corporations have the deep recruiting pockets and large staff necessary for participating in career fairs at universities around the country each year. They also typically have enough openings to justify the time and expense of making the on-campus career fair rounds.

Many exciting employment opportunities, however, are found with employers that aren’t household names. Smaller companies doing innovative work, as well as start-ups that can satisfy your students’ entrepreneurial cravings, often prefer participating in our virtual career fairs.

C2D2, as well as the College of Computing, hold several of these online fairs throughout the year as part of our commitment to giving your students a range of work choices. These fairs are a win-win for all involved: they accommodate large employers who are wait-listed after registration closes for the large on-campus fair; they offer smaller employers a cost-effective way to connect with our students; they provide alternative access for students working or studying abroad, as well as those who can’t attend the on-campus fairs due to various conflicts; and they give students on campus a chance to get a job without having to change out of their pajama pants!

Up-close-and-personal recruiting trends

With thousands of students dressed up in their finest business attire, employers shaking hands and accepting paper resumes in a “receiving line” style, and rows of company booths decked out like a tantalizing hors d’oeuvres buffet, career fairs are sort of the black-tie galas of the job search world. There are lots of people to meet and exciting opportunities to sample in an electric atmosphere, but the chances to connect in a deep way are limited.

For a career development experience that is more akin to having some friends over to the house for a come-as-you-are pot luck dinner, C2D2 offers employer information sessions and “lunch ‘n learn” events. Already this fall, for example, The Home Depot and International Paper have held focused lunch gatherings with small groups of students where everyone can take time to get to know each other.

Our information sessions are still intimate enough in scale to let recruiters get acquainted with students in a meaningful way. Well over 100 employer info sessions are underway this semester, and more than 350 are projected to be held by the end of the academic year next spring. Majors sought by the info session employers come from across all six colleges on campus.

In addition to the career fairs and other formal recruiting events, your student can apply directly on CareerBuzz for thousands of internships, co-ops, and full-time positions – with all postings vetted personally by C2D2 staff. And, they can participate in the on-campus recruiting interviewing program, as well as networking events with employers and alumni held across campus. So, while the “big” career fair held last month was a best-in-class event and an excellent way for your student to suit up and practice networking, as well as connect directly with employers, it was not the only way to do so. The annual September career fair serves up the fall recruiting season on a silver platter, but now it’s up to the students to take advantage of the vibrant and varied opportunities that follow.


  • Workflow Status:Published
  • Created By:Sara Warner
  • Created:10/01/2015
  • Modified By:Fletcher Moore
  • Modified:10/07/2016


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