Melissa Stevens is the Senior Manager of Campus Diversity & Inclusion Recruiting at Capital One.
Having worked in campus recruiting for 14 years, and as part of Capital One Financial Corporation's campus recruiting events team for eight of those years, conference season is one of my favorite times of year because of all the on-campus recruiting events and large conferences, like the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.
These events offer the incredibly exciting opportunity to meet with experts, peers and potential employers, but they can also feel overwhelming if you are new to the recruiting and networking process. To help reduce any stress you may feel in preparing for an upcoming event or conference, I’m sharing the top tips for a successful (and less stressful) conference.
One thing I have learned in attending many events is that everyone is feeling at least a little bit nervous. Know that you aren’t alone, and we’re all in this together! Be sure to take your time and take a deep breath!
At both large and small events, there is often SO much to do that preparing in advance is a must. For larger events, I highly recommend downloading the event app and finding a handful of speakers and activities that are absolute must attend sessions and commit yourself to doing them. Schedule some dedicated time to spend in the career expo and conducting interviews. The more you can scope things out in advance and get a schedule together for your time, the less it will feel like you’re bouncing from session to session and missing out on things that are really important to you.
Plan some free time to be able to flex during the conference. For smaller events, make a list in advance of the booths you want to visit, but give yourself some extra time to visit employers that may be new to you. Making the most of the time you have at the conference is essential, but at some point in the day, grabbing a coffee or some food (or even a quick nap!) may be important to keep yourself fresh and to make it through the rest of the day. You don’t want to over schedule yourself so much that you don’t enjoy yourself.
You are the one and only you, so bring your whole self to the conference or event. It is important for you to feel comfortable (that includes shoes too) and be able to showcase everything that is awesome about you with employers and your peers. Say “hi” to the person sitting next to you at the speaker session, have a real and honest conversation at a career booth and show off your skills in an interview. If you feel like you’re having to be someone you aren’t or employers don’t like the real you, that’s their loss not yours, and it wasn’t meant for you!
I can’t emphasize this enough — at the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is that you had a great time. Enjoy it, get to know other attendees, meet speakers and company attendees and make connections. And most importantly, have fun!
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