Job Search Tip
I’ve got to say, career fairs are not my preferred method of finding a job fast. They are mobbed with job seekers and it can be a little unnerving to line up shoulder-to-shoulder with your competition. They usually require you to stand in long lines for a lot of the day which can wear you out. They can be difficult for people who are a little shy and reserved. It takes a lot of guts to walk up to someone and introduce yourself with a handshake.
On the other hand, a career fair is actually somewhere companies are actively looking for new hires (unlike a tradeshow). And you do get that personal touch at a career fair that you don’t get from just sending in your resume. They can actually see your face and you have a chance to make a favorable impression. You even get some extremely valuable practice at introducing yourself and delivering your elevator pitch. I’ve known job seekers to get calls back from meetings at career fairs, even up to months later.
If you decide to go, great. Here’s what to do:
- Dress well. Your physical appearance is important. Dress like you would for an interview: conservative, clean-cut, and comfortable enough so that you don’t fidget with your clothes or get blisters from bad shoes.
- Bring many copies of your resume.
- Be prepared. Find out which companies will be at the fair ahead of time and do some research on them. If you can speak knowledgeably about their company to them, you will make a great impression. You might even be able to tailor your resume specifically for them.
- Practice your elevator pitch. Craft a short but sweet (less than a minute) explanation of who you are, what you do, and what you’re looking for. Practice saying it a few times before you go so that it feels comfortable.
- Present a positive attitude. You may have to psych yourself up for keeping a smile on your face the entire day, but it’s important that you do. You will be making a ‘first impression’ on a lot of people.
- Follow up afterward. Try to get business cards if you can and send an email the next day expressing your enthusiasm about meeting them and talking about the benefits you bring as a candidate. Attach your resume to the email.
But here’s my final thought: when you are deciding whether or not to attend a career fair, I always want you to think about the 80/20 Rule. In general, it means that 80% of your results are going to come from only 20% of your efforts—because some activities are just more productive and more useful than others. The key is to figure out what those 20% activities are, so that you can duplicate them and be better and stronger than you were before. You’ve got to think about whether or not attending a career fair is going to be one of those 20% activities. Is it really going to get you the results you want for the time you spend on it?
The advantage of career fairs is that they are there to hire; but the disadvantage is that you are going to be a small fish in a very big pond. Just think over your options.