Students and graduates have a lot of opportunities available to them, but it is important to know where they are and how to make the most of them. One such opportunity is a graduate careers fair, where you can meet potential employers and practice your networking skills.
Most universities host a career fair at least once a year, with many Unis hosting them as often as every semester, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find out what career fair options you have locally. But remember, a graduate careers fair isn’t all about free stationery and snacks! It is important to make the most of this experience and leave a good impression while acquiring all the information you need. Here we’ll talk you through how to achieve exactly that.
Research if the career fair is actually for you
Don’t just turn up to every random career fair you hear about. Instead, conduct some research to discover if the fair has a speciality or is aimed at students and graduates who have a very particular career path in mind.
For example, if the fair is an ‘experience work abroad’ type of event, but you have no intention of ever working overseas, then the fair is unlikely to be of much benefit for you. Alternatively, if you are an English literature student, then a fair focused on mathematics with the attending employers seeking out statisticians is unlikely to serve much purpose for you. Such unsuitable fairs will be a waste of your time, and that of the employers who invest their time in talking to you.
However, if you need to get some valuable work on your CV over the summer break, then a career fair focused on internships and work experience will be absolutely perfect!
Prepare to network and make connections
Your research should not be limited to the type of graduate careers fair you should attend, but also to the type of employers attending the event. Identifying a suitable fair and then just turning up and winging it will leave you at a disadvantage when it comes to networking and making connections.
So have a look into who will be attending the fair and if there are any companies you particularly want to talk to and impress. Conduct some background research into them so you sound knowledgeable and genuinely interested, which in turn will make them interested in you.
Represent yourself appropriately
First impressions really do count so don’t turn up to the career fair wearing the same clothes you partied in last night. Look presentable and relatively smart, though this doesn’t mean donning your full interview suit.
Just remember that the employers you meet will be paying attention to how you present yourself, so be sure to represent yourself appropriately.
Practice your communication skills
Attending a graduate careers fair is a great chance to practice important networking skills that you will need for the workplace. Such practice will have a positive impact on your basic communications with employers at the fair and during job interviews in the future.
For example, when you approach a stand, make sure you have a few well thought out questions ready to go. You can ask the employer specifics about their company and recruitment campaign, based on the all that research you did before. Or, if you encounter a company you haven’t researched, you can ask some general questions about what it is they do and what they are looking for today.
So many times students walk up to a stand at a fair, and then just stand in front of the employer expectantly while presuming they will know what the student wants to hear about. Instead, be ready to instigate conversations with your prepared questions. Also actively engage with the people talking to you; please don’t just stare blankly or gaze over their shoulder dreaming about lunch. Make regular eye contact and use nods and smiles to respond to what they are actually saying.
Don’t treat a graduate careers fair as something to attend just to dodge a boring lecture! And remember, you are not on your own out here as there are so many other students and graduates in exactly the same situation.
Lots of them are going to be making the very same mistakes you have been advised against in this blog, so you already have something of an advantage having read this far.
So get out there and attend whatever job fairs you deem suitable for your ambitions, prepare yourself with some research and show them who you are!
If you are a student or recent graduate looking to stand out in an internship or in a short-term placement or full-time permanent position, then get in touch with Step Recruitment today to access a diverse and inclusive outcome-focused range of internships and placements, as well as graduate jobs across a range of industries!