Job Fair

EU Students on the Search for Work They Can Love

The No. 13 tram in Zurich was full of excited 20-somethings, quite an unusual sight for a cold and grey Thursday morning. Everybody sported their finest business attire. No wonder, this tram led to the Messe Zurich where the “Absolventenkongress 2006,” a huge job fair was about to take place.

Job fairs are an excellent way to find an entry level position. Most major cities, including Vienna, host these events on an annual basis. The companies represented vary with location, but usually all the big commercial banks, investment banks, international consultants of all kinds, IT developers, insurance companies and supermarket chains are all there. Companies give graduates a chance to introduce themselves and find out what the company has to offer.

Most companies have an extensive Internet presence catering to graduates; but a personal introduction beats an online application by miles; it gives you the chance to show off your personality and charisma. You can also ask questions and get a feeling for what the company’s culture is like and whether you would fit in.

The crowd poured out of the tram, and I saw a familiar face. It was the boyfriend of a fellow Webster student. We decided to team up to maximize our efforts wooing potential employers. Walking around, we saw many familiar names: UBS, Credit Suisse, Allianz, Ernst&Young and many more. Armed with our CVs, letters of recommendation and beautifully scripted introductory monologues, we parted and got down to business.

The key for making the most of these events is being aware of what kind of position is right for you and what skills you need in order to land an interview: knowledge of the industries, knowledge of the potential companies and a solid idea about how to present yourself.

A very helpful website is which provides overviews of major industries. Vault provides you with a brief overview, the major players, and a moderated message board with interesting advice from people that either have gotten jobs already or are looking for one.

After getting an idea about what kind of job you are looking for, you need to research the companies to learn about the corporate culture. Is it a top-down company where you are expected to simply do as you’re told? Or is it a company with a lateral structure, where your input is not only appreciated, but also expected?

There was a buzz surrounding the head of Human Resources of a large Swiss Bank. I took a glance at the elegant Swiss gentleman and saw that he wasn’t listening properly, barely replying to the barrage of questions from an uptight St. Gallen student, who had foam collecting in the corners of his mouth. I decided to come back later.

I went over to a Managerial Consulter. The stand was busy but not overrun. A pleasant young woman approached and introduced herself.  After reviewing my CV, we spent the rest of the time talking about Russian Literature, and how important it is to keep one’s creative spirit alive whilst working in a dry business setting. She ended up writing me a recommendation right there on the spot, and introduced me to her superior. If only they could always be like that.

Presenting yourself is a tricky business. There is no one method that will guarantee success. There are too many factors that can affect the impression you leave.

When picking out an outfit, one should keep in mind that the goal is to look your best, and elegance is key. When talking to a potential employer, social skills are essential.  You need make them feel comfortable by not infringing on personal space, and making sure that you don’t smell like the lunch you just had. Also, have a bottle of water on hand.  Reading up on body language and practice will definitely give you an advantage.

But the most important tip is to know what the company is looking for. Second is presenting your most valuable skills, such as languages, writing, statistics or IT. The most sought after employees spoke Russian or another eastern European language, and had science degrees. If you fulfill these two requirements you are almost guaranteed a follow up interview, the next step in the recruiting process.

Armed with a thick stack of captured business cards, no CV’s left and a good feeling, my friend and I went to downtown Zurich looking for a comfortable place to dine and celebrate our success.

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