The great thing about being in college is that any good university career center organizes a job fair once every semester—or at least once a year. These job fairs can be an absolute goldmine—after all, how often do employers gather in one place and reach out to you, instead of the other way around? It is important to take advantage of these job fairs any chance you get. To help you toward that end, I will discuss a game plan that will help you get the most out of your college’s next job fair.
First of all, as soon as you get wind that a job fair is headed your way, go online and find out about it. Register for the fair if necessary, and if the fair lasts more than one day, make plans to attend both days. Some employers can only send a recruiter out for one day. If you only attend one day, you may miss out on an opportunity. Print out any lists of employers that plan on attending. Circle any that catch your eye so you can do a little research on the company ahead of time and make plans to visit their booth. If you go into a job fair ignorant of who will be there, you may end up wasting a lot of valuable time.
Next, update your resume, print off several copies, and prepare a portfolio of work you’ve done in college or in previous jobs that might be relevant to the jobs you are seeking. You may even want to copy your resume and samples of your work to a portable flash drive so you can easily transfer it to a computer. After all, many career representatives bring laptops so students can apply for jobs online.
The day before, prepare a brief statement about yourself that lets career representatives know your skills and strengths in a nutshell. Keep in mind that these recruiters will be speaking with hundreds of students, and you will need to find ways to stand out from the crowd. Most recruiters will be ready and waiting to sell you on how great their company is, but don’t let them do all the talking. Be prepared to ask questions, like “What type of degree is needed for this position?” or “What positions are available?”
Some recruiters are pushy and attempt to draw students in with candy bowls, spinning wheels and other gimmicks, but don’t feel pressured to waste time with those who represent jobs you won’t realistically pursue. You can politely decline to start a conversation with them. If you’re not sure if you’re interested in a job, wait until the recruiter is speaking with another student, then stealthily swipe a brochure, stepping away to consider the job in peace before approaching the recruiter.
Dress professionally and take the job fair seriously. In fact, treat it like an interview—complete with business casual attire, a welcoming smile and a solid handshake. There’s no better way to make an excellent first impression on potential employers.
Finally, follow up on any good leads or connections you make, reminding employers of your interest in the company. Send a thank you note if they took the time to interview you at the fair. Little details go a long way toward landing a great job.