As a student or graduate, you need to make the most of the opportunities available to you. One such opportunity, which is a great platform to meet potential employers and to learn to network, is careers fairs. Most Universities hold these at least once a year (but often, there will be one per semester).
However, careers fairs aren’t all about the free stationery and sweets! So, how do you make the most of this experience and ensure you leave a good impression, and with all the information you need?
- Do your research – is this fair even for you?
It is hugely helpful to you, and the employers in attendance, if you know something about the fair in general, and who will be there.
Think about it… if the fair is an ‘experience work abroad’ fair, but you have a crippling fear of planes and cant travel overseas; this might not be the one for you to go to. If the fair is a maths fair and all the employers are looking for statisticians, and you are an English literature student, again, this might not be the most suitable. This would then be a waste of your valuable time, and the employers’.
However, if the fair is an internship and work experience fair and you need to get some valuable work on your CV over the summer break; this is your time to shine!
- Be prepared
How do you ensure you shine brighter than the competition (your friends and fellow students)?
Again, research is the key here. Have a look at who will be attending the fair, and if there are any companies you particularly want to impress and talk to, do a bit of background research into them as well. This way, you will sound knowledgeable, and more importantly, interested, in them, which in turn will make them interested in you.
- Think about your personal presentation
We all know that first impressions really do count, so don’t turn up smelling of yesterday’s cheapest cocktail at the SU, instead make sure look presentable and smart. This doesn’t mean you have to don your full interview suit, but do remember you want these people to potentially employ you, or to at least think about it!
Additionally, as mentioned, this is a great chance to learn the important networking skills that you will need for the workplace. This will have an impact on your basic communications with the employers at the fair. If you approach a stand, have a few well thought out questions. You can either ask them specifics about their company and recruitment campaign, following all that research you did yesterday, or, if you forgot to research, or you want to find out more because their banner is shiny, then you can ask them some general questions such as what it is they do and what they are looking for today. I’ve lost count of the number of times a student will just walk up to my stand at a fair, stand in front of me expectantly, and presume I’ll know what they want to hear about. Also, remember to actually engage with the people talking to you; don’t just gaze over their shoulder dreaming about lunch, but make eye contact and respond to what they are actually saying.
Remember, fairs aren’t just something to attend to dodge a lecture! You are not alone – as Zoe has previously highlighted in her blog. These events can actually be an opportunity to meet a member of your future team, before you are even on the team.
Also, see this handy infographic from some intern people in America – http://www.youtern.com/thesavvyintern/index.php/2015/03/02/are-you-really-ready-for-the-career-fair-infographic/