Making the Most Out of Careers Fairs
Some people may take a more casual approach to attending a job or careers fair than they would when going to a formal job interview. This could be a big mistake. Although you may feel lost in the crowd at a careers fair and, consequently, simply show up to drop off a few CV's, the opportunity for a much more beneficial experience is there if you make an effort to put your best professional foot forward.
Here are some tips on how to get the most out of attending a careers fair:
Do Your Research
Since you can easily find out the list of the careers fair participants beforehand, look for companies that interest you and do some research. Find out what types of job opportunities exist within the company that you feel you'd be a good fit for and come up with a couple of interesting questions you can ask about the jobs or about company culture. Keep the exchanges with company representatives on a professional level and be sure to request a business card so you can follow up later with a quick thank-you email.
Know What You're Looking For
In a sea of businesses all looking for ambitious new talent, it can be tempting to show up at the job fair to "just see what's available." A better use of the time spent networking and browsing, however, would be to have a specific goal in mind, i.e. the type of company you want to work for or the ability to learn or practice a new skill.
Practice Your "ElevatorSpeech"
Once you have a goal in mind, you'll want to practice how you'll express that idea to prospective employers. You don't want to create a long, rambling monologue, but you should be able to concisely say within the span of 30 to 45 seconds what type of opportunity you're looking for. Spend some time practicing your short speech in the mirror or with a friend until it sounds natural and casual, but professional.
This may seem obvious, but just in case you were tempted to head to the careers fair in jeans, a t-shirt or other types of casual wear - don't. First impressions are indeed lasting, and if you come across as unprofessional at a first meeting, businesses that spent time and money to exhibit at a careers fair probably expect to see what they'd be getting in a possible new employee. At the very least, this would most likely include someone who dresses in appropriate, professional attire.
Have CV's Handy
Of course you can collect business cards and follow up later by sending a CV, but why not get the ball rolling as quickly as possible? Treat the careers fair like a job interview and show up with a portfolio or briefcase containing multiple copies of your CV, business cards and anything else that showcases your skills and accomplishments. With this type of preparation, prospective employers are undoubtedly going to take notice and be impressed by your initiative and professional demeanour.