When asked what advice he might have for job seekers planning to attend the MScA career fair taking place on March 30 at the University of Chicago Gleacher Center, Anish Gera is unhesitating and precise: “Show them you’re a problem solver.” It’s advice worth heeding given Anish’s success at last February’s career fair, where he connected with Discover Financial Services and ultimately landed a Senior Associate position shortly after graduating from the MScA program.
“Having the tools is a given,” he adds. “It’s a matter of showing whoever you’re speaking with that you’re adept at using tools and able to think on your feet. You want to prove to them that you’ll be able to take on projects and solve problems on day one.”
Anish admits that this combination of extroversion and determined perseverance were not part of the approach he’d used at the beginning of his career. Having graduated from a top engineering college in India and worked for a couple multinational companies after that, Anish says he’d been able to rely on his prospective employers’ implicit confidence in his skills. In fact, in most cases, he says, it was a matter of them seeking him out. He calls the sort of preparation and practice he carried out prior to the MScA career fair a complete change from his prior approach.
“I think I’d come to believe that my skills and analytic experience spoke for themselves,” Anish says. “But it became clear very fast once I’d entered the MScA program that I couldn’t do that anymore. I had to package myself as convincingly as possible—through networking and practicing my elevator pitch, and polishing my resume and making my LinkedIn page as strong as possible, not to mention getting a professional headshot. I spoke with others in the program too and learned the sorts of words employers would want to hear. In a certain sense, it was an all out attack.”
The MScA career fair hosts 25-30 companies whose representatives array themselves in booths on the Gleacher Center’s sixth floor. The event is an opportunity for students to develop career networks and strengthen relationships with industry partners that extend beyond the classroom. Good advice he received, Anish says, had him target only a handful of the companies present, focusing on those looking to fill positions particularly well-suited to his background. From there, he says, it’s a matter of contouring your past work experience to the particulars of the position the company is seeking to fill. Fundamentally, Anish says, it’s a matter of making your elevator pitch as fluent and powerful as possible.
“With the career fair three or four months away,” he says, “I began putting my elevator pitch together. I wrote it out first and then practiced it standing in front of a mirror. I even made videos and sent them to friends for their critique. Studying the successful pitches of others was also very helpful. Ideally, on the day of, it will just flow out of you and capture your audience. And you’ll know if you’ve done a good job,” he adds, “because they’ll ask you questions and be interested to know more about your background. Ideally, it will land you an interview call on the spot or in the very near future. And another important thing I always did was send thank you emails to the people I met, always including an e-copy of my resume along with it.”