Tips for Making the Most of a Job/Career Fair

Market Thyself # 042

Another step in the career exploration and job search process is attending a job/career fair. Employers participate in these events to meet and recruit new employees. They can provide general information about career options as well as specific information about current openings. You can attend a job/career fair to look for a job, gather career information, and/or develop your network of career contacts. Here are some suggestions for getting the most from your job/career fair experience. The following tips will help you make a good first impression and increase your chances of getting an interview with an employer.

1. Know what you want and be sure you get to the right job/career fair

a. Think about and research the kinds of jobs and companies you would like to pursue. The job/career fair can provide you with a great opportunity to get first-hand information about the jobs you are interested in and, with any luck, meet with employers face to face.

b. As the number of recruiters is less than the number of job seekers, expect the job/career fair to be crowded. Despite the long lines of eager applicants, remember to maintain a positive attitude. Be polite and considerate; anyone you meet might be a recruiter you will see later that day.

2. Revise and print copies of your professional resume to distribute to employers.

While most employers will be recruiting for positions that currently exist, some employers may be willing to share information about their organization and to collect resumes for possible future openings. In general, bring more copies of your resume than you think you will need.

JL: Be sure to include your e-mail and/or web site if you have one.

3. Prepare and practice "Market-Thyself presentation." (JL)

a. Develop and practice, as best as you can, what you will say when you approach a corporate representative and hand over your resume. Include a brief summary of your qualifications - ideally those that match the job(s) you know the company is recruiting for - with an emphasis on what you think is unique about yourself.

b. Develop questions you will ask about the company, especially those pertaining to job duties, company structure and culture, and how you can expect to contribute. As a general rule, you should stay away from asking salary and benefits-related questions during your initial contact with an employer.

JL: Wait for later. When you have a real interview, they will tell you or you will have your chance to ask.

4. Dress and act as professionally as possible.

While most employers will understand if you are not dressed in business attire, doing so shows commitment to your professional future and will receive positive notice. However, you want to avoid brand new suit and shoes, as they may result in distracting discomfort. Wear a normal suit and shoes, as long as they are well maintained.

5. Select companies

Survey the job/career fair program and other materials to determine which companies interest you and match your career objectives the most. Also, be sure you have the qualifications required by the company. The following points will help you develop a list of priority companies that you would like to visit. Try to meet with those employers first.

a. Pick up and review literature about companies before approaching them if possible. Aside from corporate literature available at the job/career fair, additional company and career-related material can be found in newspapers, companies' ads and reports, in the libraries, on the Internet by using search engine properly (refer back to Market Thyself # 035 - JL), and from more experienced people, including friends, instructors, and especially workers in your field or organization of interest.

b. While waiting in line to meet with an employer, observe conversations other attendees are conducting with company representatives. This often will give you a sense of what other candidates have to offer and what questions they are asking employers.

6. Make contact with corporate representatives

Now is your chance to use the Market-Thyself presentation (JL) that you prepared and practiced in No. 3 above to contact with corporate representatives and ask them any questions that you may have, such as what they like about the company. Be sure to thank them for their time and get a business card or other form of contact information. If needed, jot down notes about the position, company, or recruiter to help you in your follow-up note, call, or interview. Try to learn from each contact you make and each situation you encounter.

7. Follow up

Follow up your meeting with a thank-you note or call to inquire about what happens next if the procedure has not already been explained to you.

JL: This is a good chance to ask for a job interview. Don't hesitate. You have nothing to loose. Refer back to Market Thyself # 039 - The Most Used Letters.

In summary:

a. What to learn from employers:

* Employment and/or hiring trend.
* Skills necessary for different jobs/careers.
* Current/future openings.
* Salary, benefits training, and other information about the organization.
* Who to contact for follow-up discussions.

b. What Employers may want to learn about you:

* Specific job/career objectives.
* Individual strengths and weaknesses.
* Contribution you will make to the organization.

c. Make the most of your job/career fair experience:

* Have a pen/pencil and paper available for notes.
* Bring resumes and a folder or a portfolio to hold your materials.
* Review the list of employers. Determine where employers are located and in what order to visit them.
* Broaden your focus and include many types of employers. For instance, you may not want to work for a hospital, but hospitals recruit and hire professionals in many different fields such as information systems, network administrators and technicians, etc.
* It is appropriate to ask specific questions and offer to follow up after the fair.
* Be direct. Introduce yourself. If you are job seeking, state the type of position in which you are interested. If you are gathering information, let employers know that you are only interested in material and information.
* Ask for employers' business cards for follow-up discussions and/or correspondence.

(Stephen Cheney-Rice and Mary Beth Bussert - and various sources)

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