How to handle career fair nerves

AbbyAdvice, Final Year, First Year, Graduates, On Placement, Postgraduate, Second Year

Let’s not beat around the bush. Speaking to a potential employer – someone you’ve likely never met – by video, is daunting.

It’s not like the in-person, on-campus fairs, where you can operate a safety in numbers system and make your way around the event with your good pals Alice, Hinesh and Symrun. If you’re feeling nervous about speaking 1-to-1, it’s completely understandable.

That being said, try not to let nerves stand in the way of a great opportunity. The organisations attending are recruiting for placement roles and/or graduate positions. This is a chance for you to secure something in a tricky market!

Today, I’m going to share our tips for beating the nerves, so that you can attend some 1-to-1 meetings hopefully feeling a little more confident.

1. Prepare as much as you can

Whenever I’m feeling stressed or anxious about something, I do whatever I can to prepare for it, and it’s the thing that makes the biggest difference to how I’m feeling. If it’s a conversation with an employer, I read everything I can about the organisation. I read their website, their blog, their social media channels, and if it’s a big company, I’ll Google them to see if they’ve been in the news recently. I’ll also write out a list of potential questions they might ask me about myself (there’s lots of examples online!), and then I practise what I would say if those questions come up. I also spend some time thinking about my strengths, weaknesses, and what I could bring to a role or organisation. Block out an afternoon in your calendar and spend a few hours prepping – you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes!

2. Test your tech

The likes of Zoom, Webex, Skype and Microsoft Teams have made it easier for us to communicate with each other, but it does add an extra element of stress when you’re worrying that it’s not going to work on your computer, your internet keeps dropping, or that you’re going to forget to take yourself off mute. To save a bucket load of worry, spend some time getting familiar with it beforehand. You’ll feel a lot more comfortable on the day if you’re not having to get to grips with a new piece of software for the first time.

3. Do some deep breathing

Taking deep breaths triggers our parasympathetic nervous system, which soothes us and helps us to feel calm. You can do it anywhere, and it only takes a few minutes. Breathe in through your nose, and out through your mouth, slowly. If it helps, you could count to four as you inhale, and then again when you exhale. You could do it two or three times a day in the lead up to your meeting, or you could just do it on the day, beforehand. There’s some more information about breathing exercises on the NHS website, here.

4. Think positively

Visualise yourself doing a great job in your 1-to-1 meeting. Imagine that you’re answering the questions well, you’re getting on with the employer, and you’re asking some great questions of them, too. Give yourself a pep talk to remind yourself of your strengths, and tell yourself that you’ve got this!

5. Practise your elevator pitch

We talk about this in this post on how to speak to employers at careers fairs. One of the things we hear from students is that they don’t know what to say to an employer. This is where your elevator pitch comes in. An elevator pitch is a summary of who you are that you can say in roughly 30 seconds (the time spent on a short elevator ride). You need to include your name, give it a bit of background, and say what you’re looking for.

Here’s an example:

“Hi, my name’s Sophie. I’m a final year marketing student at Aston University. I’ve just completed a digital marketing placement at an SME in Birmingham, where I was able to gain experience in content creation, social media management and copywriting. I’m graduating next year, and I’m really keen to gain a marketing role in a creative agency. I think some of the campaigns you’ve done recently have been very innovative, and I particularly enjoyed the recent blog content you created for Panda Biscuits. I’d love to discuss any graduate opportunities you might have.”

6. Remember that the person you’ll be speaking to is just a human

It can be easy to get caught up in the idea that the person you’ll be speaking to is a hard-nosed corporate business person who would make Miranda Priestly quiver in her boots. But, it’s important to remember that they’re just another human. The chances are, they’re probably feeling nervous too! Another thing to remember is that they’re not trying to catch you out. It’s just an opportunity for them to get to know you, and for you to get to know them. Think of it as a conversation, not an interview.

7. Plan something nice to look forward to afterwards

Having something to look forward to for after your meeting gives your mind something positive to look forward to. Maybe it’s an episode of something brilliant on Netflix, a bowl of cheesy pasta for lunch, or a call with a friend. It doesn’t matter what it is, just as long as you can look forward to it!

8. Go for a walk

A mountain of research has shown that walking can have a positive impact on our mental wellbeing. If you wake up on the day of your meeting feeling like your nerves have taken on lives of their own, go for a brisk walk around the block, or get to a park if you can. This will hopefully settle your nerves. If you find that your mind is focused on the meeting, call an uplifting friend, listen to your favourite podcast, or commit to focusing on your surroundings. Look at the dog who’s enjoying his morning walk, listen to the conversations around you, or feel the ground beneath your feet.

Best of luck, you’ve got this!

Written by Abby Sweeting, Careers and Placements

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash