Career fairs are a great way to get yourself out there, make new professional connections, and cast a wide net when it comes to potential employers. Many times, career fairs also feature helpful workshops, panel discussions, and speakers that provide valuable information that you can apply to your career. Today we’re going to show you how to get the most out of a career fair, while avoiding some of the pitfalls that are sometimes associated with them. Let’s begin.
Create an Itinerary
Leading up to the fair, you should be able to get your hands on a list of the participating companies, an event schedule, and a directory to help you locate the booths you want to visit. If these aren’t provided to you when you register for the event, try contacting the event organizer or the facility in which it is being held, and someone should be able to help you. Next, create an itinerary that allows you to visit the booths and events of your choosing as efficiently as possible.
Career fairs can be somewhat chaotic, and having a plan will help you to stay on track without wasting too much time on unforeseen obstacles. Indeed, having an itinerary will save you time and you’ll have less headaches, but always remember to keep an open mind. Try to see your itinerary as a guideline, and don’t be afraid to step outside of it once in a while-you might be surprised at what you find!
Since you’ll be passing your resume along to anyone and everyone, make sure it’s in tip top shape. If you need help tightening up your resume, check out some of our advice here. You should also prepare a cover letter, but keep it on the general side as you’ll be handing it off to a variety of potential employers. If you’re a student and you need help with your resume and cover letter, your school should have some resources available to you.
Along with your resume, develop a pitch about yourself that you can use when you visit employer booths. Include information about your area of study or expertise, your work history and achievements, and any unique identifying information about yourself that you wish to share. For the best results, practice delivering your pitch with a friend or a family member. This will help you refine your pitch, while building confidence.
Now that you’ve got your handy itinerary all ready to go, take the time to do some research into the companies you plan to visit while you’re at the fair. If you demonstrate prior knowledge of a company when speaking to its representatives, it will give you an advantage and help you stand out from the rest of the attendees.
Career Fair Etiquette
There’s an old adage that says “dress for the job you want,” which is true in almost all cases; however, with a career fair you’ll be engaging a variety of employers with different perspectives and ideas of what “being professional” looks like. In this scenario, it would be better to be overdressed than underdressed. Keep it simple but professional, and wear clothes that make you feel confident.
We’re going to have to dust off those old manners if we want to make a good first impression. Be polite when speaking to any recruiters or representatives, and make sure you always say thank you when ending any interaction. Of course, all of this seems really obvious, but if you’re particularly nervous it can be easy to forget to use your manners in the moment. When you’re practicing your pitch with a friend or a family member, get into the habit of using your manners so it becomes second nature.
One of the biggest advantages of attending a career fair is having the opportunity to expand your network. Most simply, always ask for a business card whenever you’re speaking to a representative. You’ll likely wind up with a giant stack of business cards, which will come in handy if you decide to follow up with any of the companies. Additionally, asking for a business card will show the representative that you’re interested in pursuing the company further, whether for more information, or as an applicant.
Aside from collecting all those sweet business cards, you should take the time to speak to some of your fellow career fair attendees. You never know where your next great opportunity will come from, and it pays to make as many good connections as you possibly can. Additionally, you might meet someone who has valuable advice or insight that can help you in your own career.
When the fair is over, take note of the employers that you’d like to follow up with. Wait a few days, then go ahead and send some nice thank you emails-the employers will appreciate it and they’ll be reminded of meeting you at the fair. Attending a career fair should make you feel energized and excited about the possibilities for your career, and the more career fairs you attend, the more confidence you will build. Before you know it, you’ll have a vast network of contacts and you’ll be a pro at pitching yourself to potential employers.