Career fairs – you only go for all the free stuff, right? Free pens, free sweets, maybe if you’re lucky even a snazzy tote bag or two.
While the freebies are great, it might shock you to know that you can actually get a whole lot more out of a career fair than just a new stock of stationery. Play your cards right, and it’s an opportunity to impress future employers, build up your network and get a better idea of what kind of career you might want after you leave university.
But this will only happen if you put in the work. Rolling out of bed and rocking up at a careers fair without a clue what you’re doing isn’t going to get you anywhere. But if you prepare properly beforehand, and plan out your strategy, you’ll really be able to make the most of the opportunity.
Find out what companies will be there
Career fairs can be so busy and hectic that they’re just plain overwhelming at times. Just trying to find the stall you want to hit up can take ages, and even then it’s easy to get distracted by everything else on offer.
You’ll get the most out of the fair if you look up beforehand what companies and employers will be there, and make a list of which ones you want to see. Plan out your route so you’re not zig-zagging around the room and wasting time, and make sure you visit every stall you planned to before you leave.
Prepare some questions
It’s easy to just turn up to a stand, grab a leaflet and go. But really, it’s a great chance to find out more about a company.
Quite often the people representing the employer will be recent graduates themselves who now work for them, so you can ask them all the questions you wouldn’t want to ask a more senior employee. For example, how much do you earn? How much work is there really? What’s the office vibe like?
Some of the people on the stall might also be recruiters, so asking some insightful questions is an opportunity to stand out from the crowd and get noticed. Don’t over do it; if you try too hard to impress it could come across as arrogant, but take the opportunity to show what you have to offer.
Collect some business cards
If you’ve spent a while chatting to someone, and found out you really get along, then don’t be nervous – ask for their business card or email address. The following day, drop them a quick email saying how much you enjoyed meeting them and finding out about the company.
It only takes a few seconds, but things like that will really make you stand out. These employers meet hundreds of people at every careers fair they go to – you want them to remember you.
Find out what will make an application stand out
If you think you might end up applying to work at this company, or in this particular field of work, make sure you find out what will make your application stand out – and what would definitely land your CV in the bin.
Don’t stress about overstepping the mark with your questions – they’ll appreciate you showing your enthusiasm for the company. Even if they just direct you to their website, there’s no harm in asking, and you might pick up some tips that put you ahead of the competition.
Remember to go in with an open mind
It’s great to have a fixed idea of what you want to do, and you should definitely make a beeline for those stands.
BUT, there’ll be companies and careers on offer at the fair that you might not even have heard of. So it won’t hurt to take a few minutes to wander around aimlessly and see if anything catches your eye – you never know where you might end up!