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How to Get the Most Out of a Careers Fair

How to Get the Most Out of a Careers Fair main image

As the job market gets more and more competitive, finding new and innovative ways to job hunt could be the key to finding your dream job.  Signing up with a recruitment agency, joining LinkedIn and browsing online job sites will all help you in your quest for employment.  But have you ever thought about going to a careers fair?  If you’re curious about what’s on offer, then read on!

What Is a careers fair?

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No candyfloss or haunted houses here I’m afraid (unless you’re very lucky) but this sort of fair will be much more useful when you’re out job hunting.  This is an event where employers can meet potential employees (like you!) and for you to find out about various different career options and make meaningful connections.

Where are they held?

Most universities host fairs on campus but external companies also run them.  A simple Internet search will bring up a whole range of options for you; from events tailored to specific career paths, to more general careers fairs. 

How do I sign up?

Some careers fairs will require you to sign up before you attend so make sure you’ve registered online.  They’ll usually add you to a mailing list as well, and this is a good way to keep updated with any developments or last minute schedule changes.

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What can I expect?

As well as being a great place to meet potential employers, there’ll usually be a variety of talks, presentations and workshops throughout the day.  Take advantage of these, as they’re a great way to get careers advice, and for free!  This UK careers fair even hosted a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style event where graduates get the opportunity to pitch their business plans to potential employers.  Have a good look through what’s available and jot down the key things that take your fancy.

What shall I wear?

If you treat attending a careers fair as though you’re attending a job interview, you’re well on your way to preparing yourself for the event.  This is not the time to be wearing your comfiest sweat pants, so dress smart and you’ll make a good impression.  You can get away with a pair of comfy shoes though – and you’re going to need them!  Prepare for an intense day on your feet.

How do I prepare?

Putting together a schedule for the day will help keep you organized.  You might not run exactly to time, but knowing when key events are happening will help you fit everything into your day.  Remember to eat and drink throughout the day as well to keep your energy up.  It may sound like a no brainer, but it’s easy to forget the simple things when you’re busy!

What shall I bring along?

Print out some copies of your CV.  Put them in a plastic wallet though because you’re not going to impress by handing people a crumpled piece of paper.  Sometimes it might be more appropriate to hand out a business card so bring some along if you have them.  If you haven’t got any, then why not get some printed up by a reputable company.  Many of them offer templates that you can customize and have quick turnaround times. 

How can I impress?

Bear in mind that the employers are potentially going to be chatting to hundreds of people, so make sure you stand out from the crowd.  Perhaps think up a few genuinely insightful questions in advance, to show that you’ve researched the company.  When you chat to someone, don’t forget to jot down his or her name and contact details or grab a business card.

What’s next?

Now the hard bit starts.  You’ve made some connections, chatted to a few interesting people and want to make contact with a prospective employer.  A friendly email or phone call a day or two after the event shows that you’re proactive.  Strike while the iron is hot, because waiting for weeks leaves you at risk of becoming a faded memory, and also suggests a major lack of enthusiasm. 

By going to a careers fair and meeting prospective employers face to face you’ve already put yourself ahead of the competition.

Emily Valentine writes for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency which specializes in sourcing candidates for internships and giving out graduate careers advice. To browse their graduate jobs, visit their website.

(Lead image: University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment (Flickr); Second image US Department of Education (Flickr))

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