How to get the most out of a Careers Fair

13/04/2017

If you’re going to a Careers Fair, that’s a fantastic decision. Because Careers Fairs are a BIG opportunity. Not just to practice and develop your own skills but to learn and find out so much more about the possibilities for your future.

How to get the most out of a Careers Fair

If you’re going to a Careers Fair, that’s a fantastic decision. Because Careers Fairs are a BIG opportunity. Not just to practice and develop your own skills but to learn and find out so much more about the possibilities for your future.

So when you’re heading for a Careers Fair you just need to slope out of bed, pull on the nearest pair of jeans, possibly run a brush through the hair and turn up, right? After all, employers will just be queuing to speak with you, aware just by looking at you of the rare, irresistible, very personification of talent standing before them.

Er, wrong.

You may think we’re exaggerating. But in our experience of attending fairs we have seen with our very own eyes these giant NO NOs;

·         Scruffy clothes and general appearance

·         Accompanied by mum telling employers how she has dragged her son there

·         Unable to converse or respond confidently to questions or have interesting questions of their own

This not what we call a good first impression. But importantly, it also means that you are not making the most of a huge potential opportunity.

A Careers Fair has so many potential benefits. It can help expose you to people working at companies or organisations in which you are interested. It can help you narrow your search as you find out more. It’s chance to practice networking and interview skills. You may be remembered positively by a recruiter. You can access advice, resources and crucial careers information.

If you’ve read a few of our How to Guides, you’ll notice a bit of a common theme; preparation. And guess what, we’re going to talk about that here too. Because with preparation, you can absolutely optimise the benefits from the hours you spend wandering around a careers fair, instead of wasting it. It could even be the turning point of your life.

So, what should you do to prepare for a Careers Fair?

1.       First of all, establish your goal. Is it to target one or a few specific organisations to make a good impression and find out as much as possible about their opportunities? Is it to just narrow down your career search because currently you have no clue what direction to go in? Or is it early in your course and you just want to soak it all up and find out what a Careers Fair is like and grab some advice? Whatever your goal, do the appropriate preparation, giving yourself the best chance of achieving it.

2.       Now, it may seem basic, but appearance. Ok, it’s not an interview. However, no-one ever got accused of looking too smart, so if you can look neat, tidy, clean, brushed hair and at least smartishly dressed, you’ll look like you’re serious about impressing the employers there. For more information about dressing to impress see our dress to impress guide.

3.       Before you go, check out the exhibitor list if it’s available from your University organisers, or at a larger Careers Fair it will be on their website. That way you can make sure you don’t miss any organisations you’re desperate to meet, and can prioritise if you’re short of time. Also, check for any additional opportunities at the Fair such as speakers, workshops and clinics. Often there may be CV surgeries, interview skills workshops or talks on skills needed in certain industries. Anything and everything that you can learn will be invaluable advice from recruitment professionals, and sometimes you may need to book your place in advance.

4.       If you have one, take some copies of your CV with you. You may be able to give it to a recruiter in which you’re interested, and there may also be an opportunity to have it reviewed by an expert in a CV clinic or informally on a stand. Most people find CV writing difficult, so seeking out some feedback could be really useful. You may also want to take any recent applications/covering letters, for the same reason.

5.       If you are hoping to target and engage with one or a few specific recruiters, make sure you’ve done your research. In conversation, you’ll want to sound knowledgeable about their organisation. Perhaps there has been a recent article or news item you could mention? Maybe they have launched a new product or service and you could drop this in? Possibly you’ve done work experience or an internship so you can mention this to show your high level of interest in the sector or company.

6.       Be prepared with questions. When you get to a stand, are you planning on standing there awkwardly, waiting for the recruitment people to take the initiative? Think how much more confident, ambitious and impressive you’ll appear if you are armed with your own sensible, searching and interesting questions. You could ask specific things about the graduate scheme, dates, intake numbers, application process, skills they are looking for. Or you could ask industry questions, such as where are they in terms of size in the industry, what’s the biggest priority for the specific department you’re interested in. If you’re feeling brave, you may even want to ask challenging questions such as what makes them a great employer or what opportunities for career advancement are there once you are in.

7.       Be prepared with answers. This is a major one. You may think that you know how to talk about yourself, and that at the drop of a hat you could easily chit-chat about your aspirations, ambitions and what you want from life. I’m afraid, that in the exception of a few cases, most responses to these questions involve a lot of ‘ums, ers and I’m not sures’. Practice in advance how to respond if someone says ‘Why are you interested in our graduate scheme’? If you don’t know yet if you are interested, be honest. ‘I’m using this Careers Fair to gather information on different careers as I haven’t decided yet’. Or, ‘I’d love to work for xxx because …’.

Is it because you are passionate about the work in that sector?

Is it because you’re passionate about the company brand and values?

Is it because you’re impressed by the performance and success of the company?

Is it because they offer things of value to you e.g. chance to use languages/travel etc?

Also be ready to answer questions about yourself and therefore be aware of and able to recall your strengths, achievements and personal qualities. Even if you don’t need them, it’s all good practice for interviewing and networking later in life.

8.       Think about your body language and the importance of coming across confident and professional. If you struggle with your confidence, read our guide on overcoming a lack of confidence. But maintain eye contact, speak clearly and articulately and if you have a prolonged conversation it’s always nice to shake hands at the end in thanks.

9.       Take a big bag with you. Careers Fairs are a great place to pick up graduate scheme brochures, leaflets, sample test sheets and lots of other useful information. Not only that, but you’ll probably walk away with a few freebies; pens, mugs, wristbands and more, so make sure you can carry them!

Above all, make sure you enjoy the Careers Fair. Soak up the information, contacts and advice. Grab the freebies.

You’ll come out more informed, more motivated and with more direction than when you went in – and that means the day will have been well worth the effort.

From the mybrink team, good luck!