Career fairs are significant events. During these times you can discover what jobs interest you and create networking opportunities to meet prospective employers. At the same time, when you combine several companies with hundreds of people in the same location, these events can quickly become overwhelming. How do you prepare for these? How do you even know where to start? We are glad you asked. At Palmer Group, we have been attending career fairs for years and have learned valuable tips and tricks along the way to help attendees feel confident and ready.
- Come prepared. Before the fair, review the online directory of employers and their job opportunities. Research the companies that interest you most. By spending time reviewing their background, you will be prepared, focused, and ready to ask specific questions. This shows genuine interest and a proactive demeanor, which will impress representatives. And be sure to print several copies of your resume to give out. Know the employers you want to meet and make a list in order of importance.
- Dress appropriately. First impressions are important. By having a polished appearance, you will boost your own confidence as you prepare for these conversations. Often times, professional dress is preferred, but depending on the fair, business casual can often be acceptable as well.
- Know the location. Come as early as possible to give yourself adequate time to know where to go. Remember, fairs are busiest during the lunch hour and close promptly at publicized ending times to accommodate employers’ travel arrangements. When you arrive, take a few minutes to review the map and directory for the fair. You may feel more comfortable if you quickly locate and walk by the employers in whom you’re most interested (refer back to your list). This will confirm their location and alert you to any crowds or lines of others waiting.
- Prioritize the employers you’re most interested in. Normally, you think of going to your top employers first, which is one method. However, if your schedule allows, you might start with the employers in which you’re less interested. This will allow you to hone your approach and to be most confident when you approach the employers you’re especially excited about. Do your best to be conscious that many other people may be interested in the same employers. You may need to wait to speak with some employers, so adjust as best you can.
- Be flexible. Often the fair directories provide brief summaries of employers’ opportunities, but changes are always possible. Some positions may no longer be available and other openings may have just emerged. The representatives attending the career fairs are there to share their experiences working at the organization but may not be involved in the hiring process. If the representative does not know the specifics about certain jobs/internships, ask for the name of someone you can follow up with.
- Introduce yourself. Be prepared to give your career pitch, or as some might say, your elevator speech (a summary of yourself in a short amount of time). Extend your hand, say “hello” and state your name. Have your resume in-hand and be ready to talk about your career interests, fitting work experience, as well as academic and extracurricular involvements that will showcase your skills and strengths.
- Take notes. When you inquire about next steps or the possibility of talking with additional managers, write down the necessary information. The representative at the fair may not be able to answer all your questions or know specifics about your job interests. Write down the names, telephone numbers, etc. of other staff in the organization who you can contact later. Note specific employer information sessions, on-campus interviewing and projected hiring dates that will affect you.
- Ask the representative for his/her card. Having the business card of the representative you have just spoken with serves three purposes. First, you have contact with the organization, including the proper spelling of the representative’s name, direct telephone line, etc. Second, you can write a brief thank-you note acknowledging the help they gave you and the time they took to visit with you. Third, sending thank-you notes is an excellent professional habit that will serve you well throughout your career.
- Be courteous and grateful. Enjoy the fair and your interactions with employers. You may not walk away with an internship or a job, but each conversation is building character and unlocking insight into the career you will pursue. And you never know, the connections you make at career fairs can create a network of possibilities for your future.
These nine steps will prepare you for your upcoming career fairs. Instead of being overwhelmed by these events, you can look forward to the personal and professional growth each fair brings. If you have further questions on this topic, please reach out to Palmer Group today. We would be more than happy to follow up with this topic or address any other employment questions you may have.
By Lee Johnson & Hannah De Cleene
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