Career Fairs, whether offered at colleges and universities or sponsored by an outside organization, can offer an excellent opportunity for help juniors and seniors to research a variety of careers and companies, to make informed major decisions about employment. However, due to the sheer size of the events and number of employers and participants, these career fairs also can be overwhelming.
Career fairs are excellent resources to learn about different industries, which companies are hiring, average starting salaries, required skills, training programs and growth opportunities.
To make the most out of these events, plan ahead. At All About Careers, we recommend that job seekers: 1) Conduct research 2) Attend events with appropriate materials and 3) Find a way to differentiate themselves from competing job candidates.
Companies host booths to meet potential employees. Representatives, usually hiring managers or recruiters, bring and display materials about their respective companies. Those materials include background, products and services information, and information on the benefits of joining their firm. Representatives are available to talk briefly with attendees and to exchange information on the next steps involved in the interviewing process.
To make attending a career fair a more productive experience, job seekers should follow these tips:
- Find out in advance which companies will be attending. These lists are usually available online or through career assistance offices.
- Prioritize which companies are most important to visit, and plan time to visit each booth. If a company looks interesting, visit its website so you can be knowledgeable when talking with booth representatives.
- Schedule enough time to work the room and visit every booth on your target list
- Have prepared questions to ask at each booth to gain a better idea of whether the jobs the companies are offering are interesting and to determine if you have the appropriate skills. Take notes – don’t forget a pen and paper!!!
- Don’t work the room in a group. You will appear more confident and professional if you separate from friends and concentrate efforts on the jobs and companies that interest you the most.
- Take clean copies of a resume. Be sure to have a friend or teacher double check for typos and grammatical errors. A sloppy, wrinkled resume with errors is a real-turn off to prospective employers. To make a really strong impression, have materials, including business cards, developed by a professional resume writer or career services organization.
- Dress to impress! Find out in advance what attire is appropriate. If this information is unavailable, wear a suit. It is always better to dress up than down. The person you meet with could be your next boss! Save the clunky jewelry and ultra-trendy clothing for social occasions. Be sure to cover visible tattoos and remove extra piercing. What is fashionable to college students may appear unprofessional to hiring representatives.
- When meeting with a recruiter, have a firm handshake and look the person in the eye. Demonstrate your confidence and maturity.
- Thank those you speak with for their time. If appropriate, ask for a business card and follow up with a formal, hand-written thank you letter.
For candidates who don’t have a clear idea about their job path, career fairs can prove to be even more beneficial. It is a great way to research different industries, companies and positions. It is perfectly acceptable as a college upperclassman or recent graduate to be unsure of career direction; this is the place to gain information! Be upfront about skills, experience and careers that are being considered. The recruiter should be able to help narrow a search.
Career fairs are a great way to research, practice networking and to hone in on an ideal job! Be prepared to take full advantage of the opportunities these events can offer.
Laurie Kahn is co-founder of All About Careers, which provides innovative approaches to creating and building careers. It also hosts the AAC Dream Job Boot Camp™: Guerilla tips, tactics and strategies for the seriously motivated career-seeker. The intensive, two-day workshops are geared toward college age individuals who are in the beginning stages of their career. Additionally, the group offers individual coaching, special package pricing for students, and on-site programs at campuses nationwide. For more information, visit AllAboutCareers.com or call 312.944.9194 x108.
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