A career fair is an opportunity to find out what’s on offer in the working world, while showcasing your talents to potential employers. Before you decide to give the next career fair at your university a skip, read on.
Career fairs are incredibly useful when it comes to providing you with information and opportunities – even some you may not have thought about. In fact, career fairs are so important in terms of giving you a sense of direction about what comes after you graduate, that you should have started attending them from your first year.
They give you a good idea of which companies hire graduates, what they look for and how you can apply for their graduate programmes.
In the years to follow, you should use career fairs as opportunities to network with potential employers, and even stay in touch with them afterwards via Facebook and LinkedIn, so that when you’re searching for a job later on, they’ll remember you.
Going to a career fair is about more than browsing around the stalls to see who is exhibiting.
IF YOU’VE DONE SOME RESEARCH ON WHAT EACH COMPANY DOES, YOU’LL BE ABLE TO DIRECT YOUR CONVERSATIONS MORE EFFECTIVELY, USING THEM AS AN OPPORTUNITY:
What kinds of jobs are on offer? What opportunities are available to graduates? How can I stay in touch with the company and hear about job opportunities? How would you describe the company culture? Does the company have a graduate development programme? Which degrees is the company typically interested in? Does the company offer work experience programmes for students or opportunities to do vac work? Why do people choose to work for your company? What does a typical work day look like? QUESTIONS TO ASK they’re looking for candidates and it’s an ideal opportunity to showcase your talents.
This goes back to the importance of doing research beforehand: this is your opportunity to wow them with great questions and really stand out from the crowd. Remember that even if a company specialises in a certain area, such as law or accounting, it will generally be looking to hire graduates across the board, including in areas such as human resources, marketing, communications … every discipline you can think of, really.
The moral of the story is not to discount a company because you think it doesn’t operate in your chosen industry. Keep an open mind and give all companies a fair and equal amount of your attention. The more companies you speak to, the better your chances of landing the job of your dreams.
Whatever you do, don’t chew gum and don’t take calls while you’re talking to company representatives. In fact, switch your phone to silent. Another big no-no is asking about salaries. It’s not easy out there as a graduate, so you really need to make use of every tool at your disposal to get as much information as you can and do as much networking as possible.
A career fair is one such tool. While you may not find an actual job by attending a career fair, you can equip yourself with very useful information. What are the types of jobs available in the sectors that interest you? Which companies would you most like to work for? Which of them offer graduate programmes or internships? Are the companies you have always admired really what you’re looking for in an employer? What culture and values attract you the most and where do you think you will fit in? As much as this is an information-gathering exercise for graduates, company representatives are also on the lookout for potential new employees.
Remember that first impressions count, so it’s important that you project a positive attitude. Prepare a short “elevator speech” about who you are, what you’ve studied, any academic or relevant skills, and intern or vac work you’ve completed.