Don’t Be A Career Fair Casualty

How to get the most out of a career fair

22082519_s (1)When it comes to finding a job, it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. You can’t just show up at a career fair with a smile on your face and a resume in your hand and walk out with a top job anymore. Today’s economy demands job seekers prepare for job fairs before ever setting foot in the door.

To get the most out of a career fair you need to plan ahead, do your research and have a strategy to get a potential employer’s attention. It’s essential to make a positive first impression and avoid a few common mistakes.

What Items Should I Bring to the Job Fair?

The most important item you can bring to a job fair is a great attitude. According to Steve Langerud, Director of Professional Opportunities at DePauw University, “Smiling, engaging and asking questions will go a long way to making you memorable and generating leads.”

Also, be sure to take practical items such as copies of your updated resume, a notebook and pen for recording important information and a folder for collecting business cards. You’ll not only look professional, but you’ll feel confident and confident people attract a potential employer’s eye.

If the career fair is an all-day event, bring lunch or a snack with you. This way, you won’t have to leave the event in the middle and risk losing out on an interview. Bring dental floss and lipstick to freshen your look after the meal. The last thing you want to do is talk up a prospective employer with a piece of spinach bread stuck between your front teeth!

What is the Best Way to Prepare in Advance?

It used to be all you needed was a sharp outfit and polished resume to impress at a career fair, but in a struggling economy, you need to prepare in advance to stand out.

Career Coach, Lavie Margolin offers her expert advice on how to prepare in advance for the job fair:

  1. Research — Look up the companies that will be there. Learn about their business. Research the type of jobs that may be open by reviewing their websites and through an Indeed.com search.
  2. Location — Leave plenty of extra time to arrive early (before the doors open) to allow yourself earlier entry and a better chance to meet with all of the employers.
  3. Plan — Know which employers you would most like to meet with and start standing on those lines early. Many employers do not stay for the whole event. Also, have your interview attire pre-planned.
  4. Resume — Have several copies of your resume available. If possible, have different versions of your resume available.

How Should I Dress When Attending a Career Fair?

When attending a career fair, you should dress as you would when going on an interview. Men, wear a suit and tie with comfortable but professional shoes. Facial hair should be trimmed and neat. Women, wear a suit with pants or a skirt no higher than an inch above the knee and low-heeled shoes.

Remember, you’re going to be spending most of the day on your feet, so choose shoes that are both professional and comfortable to walk in. Keep make-up and hair products to a minimum. You’re there to find a job not a date.

What is the Best Way to Grab a Prospective Employers Attention?

Lauren Mulligan of ResumMAYday offers this easy yet affective advice, “Be professional and presentable, and know the company. Be enthusiastic and likeable. Be empathetic and understanding if you only get a minute or two to chat with someone, as there will probably be 100 people standing behind you. Ask intelligent questions about the company – questions that show you are qualified to solve their problems.”

Also, practice active listening skills. Focus intently on the company representative as he or she is speaking. Don’t interrupt or let your eyes wander around the busy, distracting room. Nod where appropriate and take notes on important points. Just don’t spend too much time bent over a piece of paper.

When the representative is finished, let them know you understand by making relevant observations. For example, “I see, so you’re looking for a candidate who can cut overhead cost without compromising employee morale.”

What are Some Common Mistakes Job Seekers Make?

Andrew Schrage of Money Crashers.com has interviewed applicants at job and career fairs in the past. His experience leads him to offer these helpful nuggets of advice:

“Don’t go with friends. If you do go with a friend, split up. You want to look independent. Also, don’t go at the very end of the day as some recruiters will have already left and the others will be tired. Make sure you are well-prepared and confident as you begin the day. Remain positive at all times no matter how many times you get turned down.

And a final word of advice: listen! Listen to the question put before you and answer it to the best of your ability. I have done some recruiting in the past and nothing is more irritating than to have a prospective applicant give an answer to something other than the question I asked. It told me that they were either unprepared, or just not interested.”

What are Some Tips for Students Attending a Career Expo?

Students planning to attend a career fair may find themselves at a loss for how to make a positive impression on a prospective employer. Fear not, says Beth Campbell Duke, founder of Work You Love.

“Students attending a career fair require the same personal marketing materials as those with more work experience. Creating an effective personal brand and marketing strategy is something that college students can work on well before graduation.”

In other words, you as a student have something to offer. Instead of focusing on the few part-time or work-study jobs you’ve had in the past, let prospective employers know about the groups you’re a part of whether on or off-campus. Group activity and volunteer work go a long way in showing a potential boss you’re a well-rounded student who’s interested in making a contribution to society.

If you’re a college student, you’re most likely on a budget. Instead of worrying about paying top-dollar for professional, interview-worthy attire, visit a consignment store. Consignment stores take gently-used, in-style clothing and sell it up to 50% below original cost. Some pieces of clothing may never even have been worn! With consignment store discounts, you can get up to three or four professional pieces for under $100.

Now that you know a little more about what’s expected of you at a job or career fair, you can make the most out of your next one. Remember to stay positive. That next great job is out there waiting for you. You just have to go and get it!

About Jaime A. Heidel

Jaime A. Heidel is a freelance writer with a passion for helping others. She enjoys writing articles on all subjects and is also a published fiction writer.

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