Career events such as a career fair present a great deal of opportunity in a short amount of time. Attending a career fair for the first time can be a little overwhelming, but preparation is the key to success. While a career fair is a chance to network with employers, do not expect a job offer when you attend a career fair. Many employers may not be currently hiring but want a chance to get to know you and talk about their company. Here are some tips for making the best use of your time.
View the list of employer attendees before the fair. Visit their websites and familiarize yourself with their products, services and recent news. Strategically prioritize your list to maximize your time. You might also contact alumni who currently work for that organization using LinkedIn.
Dress to impress
If you’re seeking potential employment (either full-time job or internship), it's usually appropriate to wear a suit or professional attire. In some situations, such as networking receptions or employer information sessions, business-casual attire is often acceptable.
If you are not sure what the standards are, it's a good idea to ask career services. Leave the stilettos, short skirts and book bags at home. Bring a plain dark folder (leather) to hold your resumes and any information you pick up.
Make a list of major points and questions for each employer. Consult your notes just before approaching their table. Don’t eliminate companies because they are recruiting for positions outside your field; take the time to network with the recruiter and get the name of a hiring manager for your particular field.
Develop your elevator pitch
A career fair is a perfect time to use your elevator pitch. State your name, your year in school, major or area of interest and a few of your industry-related skills. Ask good questions about the company based on the research you conducted prior to the fair. Don’t ask vague questions, such as, “What does your company do?”
Bring your resume
While some employers will direct you to their website, it’s a good idea to bring resumes (and extra copies). There is no need to bring a cover letter to a career fair or event. For organizations you are particularly interested in, you might want to complete an online application before the fair. This demonstrates strong interest, and also allows you to ask the recruiter about next steps.
There are many ways to follow up on the leads you obtain at a career fair. If you receive a business card, send an email or call. If you haven’t already, consider completing an online application. If the organization hosts an on-campus recruiting or informational event, attend. For more advice on how to proceed, visit career services.
Networking 101 - Tips for Attending Networking Events
Before the event, consider these steps:
RSVP if required.
If provided, review the registration list so that you know which employers you want to meet.
Brush up on your elevator pitch (30-second commercial).
Pick out a professional outfit to wear so that you can make a positive first impression.
Update your LinkedIn profile and make sure it is complete and professional.
Clarify your goals for the event and develop a strategy.
Reaffirm the date, time and location of the event; know how to get there.
What to bring to a networking event:
Business cards and a pen.
Mints: Not necessary, but a nice thing to have, since you will be talking with other people.
Resume: Bring copies of your resume if the event is geared toward hiring or required for attendance.
Friend/Classmate (optional): Sometimes it can be a little less intimidating to go into a room full of people you don’t know when you have someone familiar with you; this is fine as long as you talk with others, not just each other.
At the networking event
Write your first and last name on your name tag. Place on the right side of your chest.
Find the host organizer, introduce yourself and offer a brief thank you for the opportunity to attend.
Be prepared to introduce yourself to others and use your elevator pitch.
If you’re joining a group conversation, wait for an opportunity to add a comment or question.
Listen actively when you are in a conversation. Ask questions.
Collect business cards and make note of the conversation for later follow-up.
Do NOT drink alcohol if available.
Reflection after the event
Take stock of the business cards you collected. If you haven’t had a chance to take a few quick notes about your interactions, do so.
Within the next few days, follow up with your connections by email or LinkedIn to connect and/or continue your conversations.
Figure out what you need to do next to achieve your career goals, and find your next networking event!
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