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How to Work a Virtual Career Fair or Forum

Angela-GuidoIf you have decided to attend the Forté Foundation MBA Virtual Forum, congratulations! You are taking one of the first steps toward an exceptional career as a business leader.

Live conferences, seminars, and networking events (even virtual ones!) represent a unique chance to develop your networking skills, build your network, meet new friends, and be inspired. As you advance in your business career, events such as these will be critical to actively managing your career because they expand your network of connections, expose you to new ideas and concepts that you can use on the job, and give you the chance to hone key business skills such as introducing yourself, listening abilities, telling your personal story, and the capacity to create meaningful connections with fellow professionals.

To make the most of these amazing opportunities, you really only need to keep two best practices in mind.

BE SELFISH

Sometimes being selfish is a good thing: it enables you to suck the marrow out of life and seize the day. Conference events have a lot to offer, but you need to actively take advantage of them. If you go in with a selfish mind-set, you will be sure to extract the most value from them. Here are some ways to do that at the MBA Virtual Forum:

  1. Focus and pay attention. You just never know when inspiration will strike. Testimonies from experts can make you think differently about things you have always taken for granted. A new perspective on life is invaluable, but you will only have the chance to be inspired if you are really listening and engaged. If someone is talking about his/her career, listen with your vision of your career in mind and see what new ideas the speaker inspires. It probably goes without saying that this will require you pay attention. It’s SO hard to do that when you are online in the privacy of your home. But do it. Close all other windows and apps. Shut off your phone. Engage your mind.
  2. Take notes. Quotes, new ideas, book and article titles, research cited, the names of great resources—all of these will be thrown around at the event. Take notes about stuff that moves and interests you, and then follow up afterward.
  3. Participate. Inevitably, part of the forum will require you to engage more directly than by just listening. You will need to think, come up with ideas, and ask great questions. Do it! It can be tempting to sit back and let others do all the work—especially if you neglected the advice above about paying attention! But it would be a mistake to not get involved in the chat room and Q&A sessions. You can only learn and develop in life by participating. If you had wanted to spend your day relaxing, go for Netflix instead. Since you are taking the time to attend this event, be there and engage.
  4. Connect. You will meet people at conference events who will play important roles in your professional and personal life—new clients, future employers, collaborators, mentors, teachers, champions, and even lifelong friends. In this online forum, some of the connections you make may be invaluable to gaining admission to the schools MBA you end up targeting. To maximize this opportunity, make it a point to meet people and then follow up as appropriate. Be sure you have a personal introduction ready (here is how to introduce yourself effectively if you’re not sure how to do that), ask people what they do and actually listen to their responses, get their business cards, and follow up! If you are worried that someone is too professionally senior or too important to want to talk to you, you are wrong. Read this article, and then don’t be shy about approaching speakers and leaders at the event.

If you come to the forum ready to be selfish, you will get the most out of it. But being selfish isn’t the whole story. You also need to…

BE GENEROUS

Professional success is dependent on relationships. Building and maintaining effective relationships requires reciprocity; you need to give at least as much as you get. The givers enjoy the most success in their careers, so come to the forum ready to be generous.

  1. Give your attention. We already mentioned that you should shut off your phone—for the whole event.But it’s worth repeating because technology is such a strong temptation for all of us.
  2. Give your input. Does the session leader ask for input? Raise your hand. Is there a chance to ask questions? Ask. This doesn’t mean you should jockey for attention or hog the floor. That would be most But you do need to engage, take some risks, and speak up. The quality of everyone’s experience is determined by the participation level of every last attendee. Be a leader and share your input.
  3. Do your research. Although the school representatives will attend an event like this for their own selfish reasons – to get access to high quality and interesting MBA candidates to fill their program with!! – they are still taking time and giving their energy to be there. To respect that effort on their part, put in your own and do some research on the schools you are interested in beforehand so your questions make the best use of presenters’ time.

“Does your school have a marketing program?” is a bad question because you don’t really need an insider to answer it. The school’s website should answer that question with about 15 seconds of poking around. “What kinds of firms recruit for marketing jobs at your school?” is a much better question because it is one that the website probably doesn’t clearly answer.

Although the point of this event is to help you explore schools and learn more about programs you might not otherwise hear about, it’s still a very good idea to do a little digging on the schools you KNOW you are interested in. So choose 3-5 schools and spend an hour or two (total) reading up about them online. If you want to dig deeper, check out mbaMission’s Insider Guides, detailed research on 15 of the world’s top schools.

As you go into your Forté Foundation MBA Virtual Forum, be selfish and be generous. If you keep these two basic best practices in mind, not only will you make the most of the experience, but you will also have a lot more fun! Your cellphone will still be there at the end of the day, but this event is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Enjoy it!

Hi, I’m Angela Guido, the Founder of Career Protocol. I help early and middle career professionals define and achieve ambitious goals, embrace learning opportunities, and have more fun in their work. If you are interested in maximizing positive impact, career success, and joy, you have to check out my blog and join my Insider’s List.

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