What Is a Career Fair And What to Expect at It?
If you are on a job hunt, you may have probably heard of career fairs and wondered if going to one could help you find that ideal job. This article explains what happens at a career fair and how you can benefit from attending one.
A career fair is an event that allows employers and recruiters to meet prospective employees and make connections before embarking on the recruitment process.
For the recruiter, going to a career fair is part of the work they do regularly. Career fairs are their bread and butter.
For the job seeker, it is an opportunity to become familiar with the jobs that are out there and to make contact with the people who are in the business of finding employees.
For many job seekers, the fair will be the beginning of the networking experience that many careers grow from.
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Is It Worth Going To a Career Fair?
Career fairs provide an invaluable opportunity for the job seeker to not only find out about available jobs, but also to make contact with the person responsible for the hiring process.
For many job seekers, it may be their first opportunity to make contact with the job market and will take them a step beyond searching through job advertisements.
They will also be able to get more information about a job and workstyle than they might do by simply sending out applications. The fair will also introduce them to the recruitment process and the expectations of prospective employers.
However, it is unlikely that you will leave a career fair with your next job safely secured. But you can expect to leave knowing you have shown prospective employers your skills and availability.
You will also have learned about businesses you have considered applying to and will have a clearer idea of how you would feel about working for various companies.
Who Can You Expect To Meet At a Career Fair?
For you, the job seeker, the fair is an opportunity to meet with recruiters and present yourself as a good fit for the jobs on offer. The fair also allows you to find out what opportunities are out there for you.
Recruiters and employers you meet at a career fair are there because they are searching for employees.
With careful planning, you can grab the employer’s attention and come to the forefront of their mind when the recruitment process begins.
Larger fairs will also offer the opportunity to meet with people who work in HR. You will be pleasantly surprised at the number of them who will be happy to point you in the right career direction.
Should I go to a career fair if I don’t know what I want to do?
Many qualifications lend themselves to a variety of work placements. A career fair will give you an opportunity to explore all the options open to you.
If you are undecided about the job style you want to pursue, visit all the stands that deal with careers relevant to your qualifications.
If, for example, you hold a bachelor’s degree in English, visit stands that are looking for teachers of English within the national education system, teachers of English as a Foreign Language, writers, editors, communications professionals, and people to work on overseas programs. Look for any possible relevant workplaces.
Preparing For a Career Fair
Attending a career fair requires more than being there if you want to benefit from the experience. For first-time job seekers, a career fair can be daunting. They are busy and noisy events, and deciding where to start can be difficult.
But good preparation can help you to benefit from the event.
Bear the following factors in mind when planning on attending the fair:
- You are attending an event where you may encounter a future employer or representative for the first time. That representative or recruiter will form first impressions of the job seekers they meet at the fair.
- Your first task is to find out what companies will be represented at the fair. If possible, get information on the companies in attendance and get a floor plan of the event.
- Plan how you are going to spend your time at the fair. There will be many companies in attendance. Not all of them will be relevant to your chosen career. Narrow down the list of companies to the ones you really need to meet.
- Arrive early. You will find that the time at the fair passes quickly and you will have to queue to meet some employers. Having a strategy will give you a better chance of meeting the companies on your list.
Plan How You Are Going To Present Yourself
Approach the fair as you would approach presenting yourself on Linkedin or any other recruitment site. In fact, consider the fair as an interview and Linkedin rolled into one.
If you are looking for a job in an area with many skilled professionals, you will have to make an impression. With many people clamoring for a recruiter’s attention, you will not have time to think on your feet.
Do all of that beforehand:
- Find out as much as possible about the companies you hope to meet. Discover if, for example, a company has launched a product or has achieved something interesting. If you end up in conversation with company representatives, this will show your interest in their business.
- Visit company websites to get a better idea of their ethos and values. Many companies give details about the type of person they like to employ and the standards they expect from their employees.
- Review your resume. Select the qualifications and experiences you have that may appeal to specific companies. Consider what you might call your unique selling point (USP) if you have something that makes you stand out.
- Don’t forget that companies are looking for the hard skills, the skills that make you capable of doing a job. But they are also looking for soft skills, the skills that make an employee a good member of the workforce.
- Remember a warm handshake. A friendly but polite demeanor can have as much impact at a career fair as a list of qualifications.
Prepare Your Questions In Advance
If this is your first time venturing into the job market you will have a lot of questions you need answers to. When you have decided what companies you want to meet, compile a list of the questions you want to ask them. Don’t rely on committing those questions to memory.
Write them down. You will remember them more easily that way. And more importantly, don’t be afraid to ask those questions. By asking, you are showing your enthusiasm and also giving businesses an opportunity to talk about themselves, something the vast majority of people like doing!
Very often, people set out with one specific type of job in mind.
However, people often discover to their surprise, that their skills and qualifications can be used in a number of different ways. Take, for example, a person who wants to work in customer service.
They may have decided that their ideal job is in the retail sector. But approaching a career fair with an open-minded attitude will show them that customer service applies in so many fields of work. They will discover jobs in hospitality, travel, and health care.
The same principle applies to many other careers.
Look at your CV and see what careers you are equipped for. The career fair will provide an opportunity to explore beyond what you had initially considered.
What Do You Need To Bring To a Career Fair?
Attending a career fair is all about making an impression and building up connections in your chosen industry. However, the employers and recruiters you meet are all going to be working under pressure. You need to make it easy for them to remember you.
They may or may not want to collect your resume but bring along copies just in case. Remember, they are likely to leave the fair with lots of documentation, so make it easy for them to work through yours.
A resume is not a thesis. A one-page document giving the relevant information can be more effective than pages and pages of unnecessary detail.
If time allows, you may want to prepare different resumes for the different companies you are planning to meet.
How Do You Dress For a Career Fair?
You need to put some careful thought into this one. A career fair is not an interview, so dressing as if for an interview will be over the top. However, that does not mean you wear your scruffy casuals.
The best advice given to people attending interviews is to dress as people in the role they are aspiring to dress for work. But for the fair, keep it a little more casual.
- And most importantly, make sure you are comfortable.
- Your demeanor will be as important as your dress.
Be confident but not overly so, and remember to smile. Some recruiters may feel under as much pressure as you do. A friendly smile will go a long way to breaking the ice.
What To Do After a Career Fair
Capitalize on the progress you made at the fair.
Follow up with the contacts you have made. Doubtless, employers and recruiters will have met many job seekers at the fair. You need to remind them that they have met with you.
If you have got their email addresses, consider sending them an email thanking them for a piece of information they have given you.
In this situation, social media is your friend. Follow people you would like to work for on Linkedin. Keep an eye on their website. Some companies issue job alerts, sign up for those.
And remember, you have taken a major step in your job search. Putting what you have learned into practice will bring you closer again to gainful employment!
Written by Elizabeth O Mahony
With 25+ years’ experience as a teacher and state examinations corrector, Elizabeth now writes for the education and careers industry. Her experience preparing students for examinations and running an academy for supplementary education give her invaluable insights into what it takes for job seekers and graduates to succeed in assessments.
Sarah is an accomplished educator, researcher and author in the field of testing and assessment. She has worked with various educational institutions and organisations to develop innovative evaluation methods and enhance student learning. Sarah has published numerous articles and books on assessment and learning. Her passion for promoting equity and fairness in the education system fuels her commitment to sharing insights and best practices with educators and policymakers around the world.