For graduates and job seekers Careers Fairs can be a daunting or a doddle
Using the preverbal phrase “Be Prepared” you can get ahead and be one step ahead of the game when it comes to graduating and launching into the job search.
First: What are Careers Fairs?
Careers Fairs are not glamorous exhibitions where companies and organisations offer sweets, pencils, cuddly toys and other impractical freebies with glossy plastic carrier bags. Ditch the idea that you will come away with as many free items, confectionery to last a weekend and useless squidgy executive gadgets to distract you from your career goals.
A careers fair has a basic function being run in universities and conference halls across the UK. Company representatives set up their stands and prepare themselves to talk to you about their sector, their organisation and the opportunities they can offer to graduates and other job seekers.
This 1:1 time at careers fairs offers you a most valuable opportunity. You get to discover as much as you can about the company, their culture and how they can help you reach your career goals.
Of course they’ll also provide you with complimentary company literature to take home to read which will add to your research. And if you are lucky a goody bag as well.
Second: What is at the Careers Fair?
Apart from the conference hall and exhibition stands it’s essential to look at the programme of events for the careers fair.
What guest speakers are there? Who is running workshops? What is the content of the presentations?
It is more than likely that industry experts will run complimentary seminars and workshops on a variety of topics which will help you in you in your job quest. You might also benefit from free advice on CV writing, presentations and career exploration.
[pullquote]A careers fair is an opportunity for you to explore the challenging and changing world of work.[/pullquote]
Third: Who goes to a Careers Fair?
All students and graduates should go to a Careers Fair at least once during their academic time. It is more likely that attendees who have visited Careers Fairs and used their time effectively will have a higher success rate once applying to graduate schemes and other openings.
Careers Fairs give you the opportunity to hone your communication skills, start to network with representatives in the corporate world and to begin to understand the employability skills that you will be required to demonstrate.
By asking questions you can learn first hand about company culture and job opportunities. In addition you can ask what and how best to apply for a position and ensure that you meet those expectations in the future.
You can discover who is offering graduate schemes, internships and which companies might offer you some work experience [always a great opportunity for getting a foot in the door].
Fourth: Where will you find the Careers Fair?
Careers Fairs can be organised by the academic institutions or by local government agencies and business associations. Research on university websites, local council notice boards and community and trade association websites.
Attend the ones that are relevant to your interests and relate to your own career aspirations as it is likely that there will be sector specific fairs. You will need to make the best use of your time and energy and not waste the company representatives by going along to all careers fairs.
Work out where the most useful ones will be and who is attending and plan your visit accordingly.
Fifth: When do you go to the Careers Fair?
Careers Fairs are not just for students and graduates. Any job seeker can attend at any time. Companies attending want to be approached by proactive, interested and resourceful people. They will take an interest in you if you have a keen and valid interest in them.
They are essential for obtaining information about different sectors, the jobs involved and opportunities for work experience.
Remind yourself of your transferable skills and knowledge by using careers fairs effectively you might be surprised that your interest in marketing is equally sought after in engineering companies.
Sixth: What to do at the Careers Fair
Talk, talk, talk.
Yes, you need to talk to as many company representatives as you can. Use the opportunities to ask as many questions as you can. If you have done your research beforehand you will know which companies are of most interest and therefore you can target them.
Although this is not a formal interview, do remember the basics of being dressed well, firm handshake, eye contact and having a current CV, etc.
Rehearse how you will introduce yourself, what you know about their business and why you are interested in talking to them. Engage with the representatives you speak to by smiling and having enthusiasm go a long way in their minds. Be clear and concise with the questions you want to ask. Prepare these before you get there. (For example: what’s important to you? Is it the salary, progression, culture, etc).
Make sure you take notes if you can so you remember what actions you need to take later, collect a business card and thank the representative for their time and knowledge.
Seventh: And after the Careers Fair….
So you have your bag of free goodies, some notes and business cards, what next? This is important, it’s called Follow Up and Thank You.
Read through and inwardly digest the company literature, remind yourself of who you spoke to and what they suggested and how you should make your interested approach. Using all the information gathered you may want to:
- Thank the representative for talking to you and remind them of your interest
- Complete a job application form using your new found knowledge and guidelines
- Enrol on an additional skills or interest based course to fill and build on any gaps on your CV
And if you didn’t get anything specific out of the Careers Fair you will have refreshed your skills in networking and communication which will enhance your employability in the long run.