If you ’re going to the BEYA Conference in February, don’t wait. Here are 16 tips to help you get ready for the job market in 86 days.

The conference completed its 32nd year in February 2018 in Washington, DC, and attracted 4,600 students, 4,475 professionals, and scores of employers, such as Lockheed Martin Corp., AT&T, U.S. Department of Energy, NASA, Apple, Raytheon, Dupont, Missile Defense Agency, General Motors, and others. Participants took part in more than 50 seminars.

According to Tyrone Taborn, one of the founders of the BEYA conference, the conference was created to level the playing field.

“It was created for one reason: to make sure that students at the HBCUs (historically Black colleges and universities) at that time had a fair shot at the opportunities in the nation’s companies,” said Taborn.

For those in search of a job or an internship, the BEYA Career Fair is the place to be. Employers use the fair to:

• Find individuals who might be a good fit with their companies for employment or internships.
• Identify talent to be tracked for future engagement.
• Conduct preliminary interviews.
• Schedule follow-up interviews.
• Share information about their company or agency.
• Answer students’ questions.

As for the best ways to maximize one’s job search while attending the BEYA STEM Conference and Career Fair, we offer the following advice:

Review the opportunities and create a strategic plan. Unfolding over three days, the BEYA Conference, scheduled for February 7–9, 2019, encompasses a broad array of events and activities: workshops, seminars, panel discussions, networking events, an awards dinner, and, of course, the career fair.

It’s not a good idea to take a “wing it” approach to the conference. There is simply too at stake, and without a plan, one might not mine the conference for all it’s worth.

1. Review the BEYA website, and thoroughly familiarize oneself with the events and opportunities.
2. Determine ahead of time which sessions would be most beneficial on a personal level.
3. Come up with a priority list of the companies and individuals that are the most important to get to know.
4. Develop a tentative schedule so that you don’t miss out on hearing from or speaking to specific individuals or attending an important event.

5. Work out time conflicts ahead of time.
6. Do your homework. Much like tests and presentations in college and the workplace, don’t show up unprepared. Do your homework.
7. Research companies that interest you, and find out some relevant information that could become part of a conversation with a company representative.
8. Have some knowledge in your back pocket about individuals you’re seeking to meet. Have they recently received an honor? Is their company working on a new product or headed in a new direction? Stick to the positives.

9. Stay away from questions or comments about lawsuits, financial problems, product failures, etc.
10. Finetune your resume and social media. Resumes and social media sites with one’s professional information should be reviewed, brought up to date, and designed to impress.
11. And it’s not a bad idea to clean up, as much as possible, other personal social media sites that may cast a less than favorable impression of you. You may want to cull photos and video that show indulging in alcohol, illicit drug use, brandishing weapons, sexual activity, etc.
12. Perfect your elevator pitch. Everyone should be able to give a summary of themselves and their goals in the time it takes for an elevator to travel a few floors. What’s yours? Work on what you would say if you had a few minutes with a CEO, a military officer, or the head of an engineering firm that you admire. Practice it alone and with a trusted friend or colleague.

13. Know what you’re going to say before the opportunity presents itself.
14. Ask a few good questions. Whether it’s a seminar or one on one at the career fair, you’ll want to have a few questions in mind to ask recruiters, panelists, or workshop presenters. Think up a few solid questions in advance.
15. Make a memorable impression. Don’t underestimate the importance of your personal appearance. Dress in clean, pressed, appropriate business attire. Hair, makeup, and accessories should be on the conservative side, not flashy. Pay attention to personal hygiene. Don’t overdo it on cologne or perfume, but make sure to pay extra attention to showering, using deodorant, brushing teeth, and freshening your breath. Remember, you want to be remembered for the right reasons.
16. Don’t forget to follow up. If you want to make yourself stand apart from the horde of job seekers, take the time to send a brief email or mail a thank you note. It lets the recipient know you appreciate their time, that you’re a thoughtful individual, and that you continue to think about being affiliated with the company.

Also take advice from Charles Johnson-Bey, BEYA’s 2018 career achievement industry winner. He suggests letting your personality and interests show through at job fairs and during interviews.

Explain what you want to do, and never say, “I’ll do anything.” You should express what you’re passionate about and provide some idea of the direction in which you want to head.

Imagine the ideal environment for students in the serious hunt for their first professional jobs. It would be packed with representatives from Fortune 500 corporations, federal agencies, defense contractors, and military branches as well as various businesses where science, technology, engineering, and math knowledge is critical.

Such an environment isn’t impossible to find. In fact, each year the Black Engineer of the Year (BEYA) STEM conference provides multiple opportunities for young people who have gained academic knowledge but hunger for a job that will be the first of many in a successful career.

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