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With students returning to college for the fall semester, career fairs, meet the firm events, and job interviews are all right around the corner and probably weighing on the minds of upper-level students. We’re here to help you with some “Do’s” and “Don’ts” to make the most of these opportunities and to help you set yourself apart from the rest of the crowd. Many of these ideas are also good practices when interviewing for jobs, and likely, your ultimate goal of attending these events is to land a good job right out of school to jumpstart your career.
Take the Time to Prepare in Advance
The first thing you want to do when attending any of these career events or a job interview is to prepare. When playing sports growing up, coaches often shouted, “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.” This sentiment also applies to interviews and career fairs.
Start by developing a game plan for the event. Check the participant list a few days before and research the firms attending. From there, create a short list of the firms you want to meet with on the event day. Be sure to include many different types of firms – you don’t want to focus solely on Big 4 firms. Try to get a mix of large, medium, and small firms to find the type of firm where you’ll fit best.
Before attending, come up with a few questions you can ask the firms you meet with – you are also there to interview firms to determine what type of firm is best for you. Try to craft some questions geared toward company culture, busy season hours and requirements, professional development, an idea of the kind of work you would be doing, and anything else you might be interested in.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
Firms meet with many students throughout the day, so make sure you do everything possible to stand out from the rest of the crowd. First impressions matter – put your best foot forward by presenting yourself professionally. Wear your best suit or professional attire for the event. You want to convey to the people you meet that you are serious about finding a job while you’re there.
Another key item is to carry plenty of copies of your resume so you can give them to firms that pique your interest. Ensure your contact information is included so recruiters and those you meet can follow up with you after the event. Be prepared to discuss some parts of your resume briefly. It doesn’t have to be limited to work experience; it can be anything that helps demonstrate your work ethic or knowledge that translates to a career in public accounting.
Pay attention to your mannerisms when meeting with recruiters and other personnel. Simple actions such as a good handshake and maintaining eye contact can go a long way. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Everyone there is willing to talk about their firm and what it’s like to work there. As a graduating student, you will have plenty of opportunities with public accounting firms, so you’ll want to make a well-informed decision about the type of firm you want. There will be an abundance of business cards present – collect as many as you want and hold onto them if you have further questions or wish to follow up with someone after the event.
Don’t Limit Yourself
There’s a fixed amount of time for these events, so try to meet with as many firms as possible while you’re there. Even if it’s not a firm on your initial list, check them out anyway. Take advantage of every opportunity available – you could always find a “diamond in the rough” this way. The universities design these events to give students as many options as possible, so don’t limit yourself before showing up!
Try to meet with a good mix of Big Four firms, national and regional firms, specialty accounting firms, smaller firms, etc. Talking to as many as possible will give you a better idea of company cultures, their values, and the work you would do for them. Knowing your options will help you decide which firms to apply to and which job offer to accept. Meeting with every firm you can while you’re there doesn’t hurt!
After the Event
After the event, try to think about all the information you received. Jot down notes about your likes and dislikes at each firm. These notes will help you know which jobs to apply for when the time comes.
It may also help to discuss your experience with a friend, advisor, mentor, or others in whom you confide. They can be a resource to help navigate the information you gathered and help you decide which career course is best suited for you. Go through your notes with them and any other information you collected during that discussion.
Take the time to follow up with some of the people you met. (This habit works great for job interviews as well.) Something as simple as sending a thank you note to the firms you’re interested in working for can help you stand out amongst everyone else they met with that day. Don’t hesitate to reach out with additional questions, either! You should have a good stack of business cards from the event to contact the people you met directly.
Attending these events is invaluable while you’re still in school, so take full advantage of that opportunity by doing the work to get the most out of it while you’re there. The universities ultimately put these career events together as a resource for their students. Every firm and company present at those events is looking for the next wave of talent to join them. It’s also an excellent opportunity for you to interview multiple firms and companies, large and small, across all kinds of industries to find the best fit for you.
JLK Rosenberger will attend the following “Meet the Firms” events this year. Stop by and say “hi” to us when you’re there. We can’t wait to meet the next generation of accountants!
- Cal State Fullerton – Thursday, September 14, 2023
- Cal State Northridge – Tuesday, September 19, 2023
- University of California, Irvine – Tuesday, September 26, 2023