Some people cringe at the thought of going to a career fair, and they might not be totally to blame for this sentiment. You dress nicely, bring some resumes, and then you are herded like cattle into a large building full of prospective employers to be scrutinized under their magnifying gaze. It can be nerve-wracking, time-consuming, and a lot of the times results in you going home empty-handed, discouraged and confused. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
One should never enter through the doors of a career fair unprepared. You cannot simply expect to show up and be handed a job. Unfortunately that’s just not how it works. One of the most important things you can do to prepare for a career fair is to check out which companies will be there. It always pays to do your research.
Once you have found out which employers will be attending the career fair, you can then look into who is actually hiring, how many positions are open, and exactly which jobs they are looking to fill. Some employers might show up and not even be hiring at that moment. This does not mean that you should pass them up, because they will always take your resume, and you never know when something will open up.
When you do your research, you can check out which positions are open and which ones you think you maybe suited for. This will give you a target instead of just wandering around aimlessly, hoping that somebody picks you up like a divorcee in a singles bar. After you figure out which companies and what jobs you want to go for, you can then prep yourself on what you want to say upon meeting them. Highlight your skills and interests pertaining to the job, and talk about your past experience and education that could be useful to the company. This is a lot better than simply stating, “I’m here and I want a job.”
As always, networking is very important This is true in the career fair world, before and after. By some stroke of luck, if you do your research, you may find out that you actually know someone in one of the companies at the job fair. It always pays to know somebody – a foot in the door. At the same time, when you are at the career fair, you should look at it not just as a chance to find a job but as a chance to meet new people and add to your list of contacts for the future. The more people you know the better. This is not just in terms of employers and recruiters but also for fellow job-seekers and career professionals. Once someone gets hired in, you never know, they may just call you up and inform you of an opening.
Career fairs can be stressful and may even seem like a waste of time, but that’s only if you’re looking at it all wrong. You have to prepare yourself, be confident and seize the opportunity. And even if nothing comes of it, at least you met new people and gained some experience for next time. And don’t forget to wear something nice!