Nicole at West Virginia University asked:
“I have couple of big career fairs coming up, and I want to be as prepared as possible. What can I do to improve my chances of finding a job there?”
Thank you for your question, Nicole. Whether they’re on campus, sponsored by a workforce commission or a company, career fairs are a great place to shake hands and get your name in the recruitment pool. With a little preparation, research and networking, you’ll be ready to make the most out of your career fairs.
Treat it like an Interview.
Career fairs are essentially job interviews on a larger and much more immediate scale. Treating the fair like a job interview will take care of most of your preparation:
- Dress appropriately. Depending on the type of fair and the industry you’re looking into, dress can range from business casual to business formal. if you’re ever unsure what to wear, go early and scope out what the recruiters are wearing then do your best to match or dress slightly more formal.
- Bring a portfolio or folder. Have enough copies of your current resume to hand out, a notepad and pen for notes.
- Do your research. Knowing which companies will be at the fair will help you come up with questions for the recruiters as well as prioritize your time once on the floor.
- Check-in with your Career Services office. Get another set of eyes over your resume, tips for the best outfit, and additional information on attending companies, as well as optional networking events.
Practice your Elevator Pitch.
Career fairs are fast paced, dynamic and can be noisy! Recruiters don’t have a ton of time to hear your whole life story and list of achievements. That’s where your elevator pitch comes in. All you need is a quick synopsis of who you are, where you’re coming from, what you have to offer, and where you want to go in your career:
“My name is Gregg Fisher, and I’m completing my communications degree this Spring. While at school, I continue to be a contributing author and reporter for the school newspaper and have found that work incredibly rewarding! I’m hoping to apply my journalism skills in my career.”
“I’m Rosie Martinez. While I got my MBA in international policy, I frequently volunteered at the local food pantry, and developed a passion for non-profit careers. I’m excited to explore the possibility of utilizing my skillset at Water for Veggies inc.”
Frequently for the rest of your adult life, you will be asked to introduce or talk briefly about yourself. Knowing how to craft an elevator pitch for the situation you find yourself in is a vital tool for young professionals and job seekers!
Prepare to Network.
Above all else, career fairs are a chance to shake hands and rub elbows with professionals in your desired field. Job searches often depend on who you know, so get ready to get yourself out there:
- Practice your handshake, touch palms with a firm grip – not too tight nor limp fish! – and shake firmly a couple of times.
- Confidently introduce yourself with your elevator pitch while you shake hands.
- Create or cleanup your LinkedIn Profile, use a professional picture and update your skills and experience. If you meet with a recruiter at a business you’re interested in, ask to connect on LinkedIn and send them a customized note on the site afterwards.
- Ask for business cards, and have a place to securely store them.
- Be yourself and be authentic, don’t be afraid to ask for advice.
At the end of the day, the best way to prepare is to go to job fairs! The more you attend, the less intimidating and more successful they’ll feel. Throw yourself into the experiences and you’ll find what works best for you.
Best of Luck!
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