A career fair is an opportunity to introduce yourself to employers and learn about the types of job openings they have available. While you shouldn’t count on getting a job offer on the spot at this type of event (although we know some exemplary college seniors who have), you can expect to learn a lot, get your resume in front of recruiters, and do some serious networking.
Prepare, plan, repeat.
Read all you can about the employers that will be exhibiting at the fair in advance. This will help you strategize your route through the maze of booths at the event and prioritize your stops along the way. Unless your school requires you to do so, you don’t need to stop at every single booth. So review the list of exhibitors and highlight the ones you feel are the best match for your intended career path. Research the employers so you know a lot more about them than the average student candidate.
Start planning at least a week before the event. Planning ahead will allow you to maximize your time at the career fair. And if you’re the type that's inclined to cram, beware: this type of planning isn’t something you can do while standing in line outside the door of the career fair. You really need a solid week.
Some career fairs offer apps or pre-event workshops for attendees. These are great ways to get acquainted with the upcoming event's floor plan, special activities, sponsor announcements, and tips.
Rehearse your elevator speech.
You’ve got 60 seconds or less to impress a complete stranger, so you need a go-to statement that, while brief, is as compelling as possible. Your elevator speech succinctly describes you, your skills, and your experience. An effective elevator speech is your chance to "pitch" yourself to recruiters.
While some people inject their personal mission statement into their elevator speech, you can’t go wrong when you keep it simple and include highlights of your academic and work experience to date, your notable achievements, and your career and educational aspirations. Never underestimate the importance of demonstrating your leadership experience or potential. For obvious reasons, recruiters are always on the lookout for candidates who display leadership qualities.
Create or update your resume.
Don’t have a resume? Have a resume that needs updating? An upcoming career fair is the perfect reason to get one going or polish one up.
The job search process begins with the resume. It's imperative that your resume accurately and effectively communicates your skills, qualifications, interests, education, and experiences. Check out these surefire resume tips. Also be sure to update your LinkedIn and other social media profiles.
While recruiters typically don’t conduct formal interviews at career fairs, it doesn’t hurt to prepare yourself for one. Begin by anticipating potential questions you may be asked by each employer of interest, and then practicing your responses. Grab a friend, family member, or mentor to help you role play until you're comfortable with the format. This prep work will go a long way in calming your nerves.
In addition to getting comfortable with being on the receiving end of questions, put together a list of relevant questions that you can take with you so you can gather as much information as possible at the career fair. These questions may include:
- What’s a typical day like in XYZ job?
- How does your company train new employees?
- Are there any professional development opportunities at your company?
- What do you like best about working for your company?
- What are some of the qualities that make a person successful at your company?
- What can I do now to successfully prepare for XYZ career?
Show recruiters you’ve done your homework by injecting your questions with employer-specific facts. How do you do this? It's simple: for each of the employers on your list, review their website, read their company page on LinkedIn, and check out recent news releases they've issued as well as media coverage.
Dress for success.
Don’t assume that just because you’re a high school or college student you won’t be judged by your appearance. This is your chance to make a positive first impression, so go for it. It’s always better to be overdressed than the opposite.
Professionalism is more than how you behave; it's also how you present yourself physically. A little extra grooming can go a long way. Not sure what to wear? Check out these tips.
Even though you might be nervous, try to relax and remain in the moment. Actively listen to the recruiters you meet. This will be a little easier to do if you’ve brought a notebook and pen with you to take notes.
Career fairs can be chaotic, with lots of noise and activity. Sometimes there isn’t enough time to get every question answered at each booth. So request business cards of those recruiters whom you’d like to continue the conversation via email. This will also allow you to follow up with recruiters to thank them for taking the time to talk to you and provide you with helpful information. In your follow-up email, don't be shy about politely requesting their help with accessing internship opportunities or arranging an informational interview or job shadow.
Ask the Kuder Coach: Any tips on organizing a high school career fair?
Students: 7 Career Fair Tips You Need to Succeed
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