Getting the Most out of Job and Career Fairs

Job FairSome malign them as “cattle calls”; others tout them as valuable networking opportunities.  Most of us know them as job fairs or career fairs, and depending on the circumstances and your attitude, they can either be an avenue to a new career or a colossal waste of time.  Let’s take a closer look and find out if career fairs are right for you.

Don’t want to be disappointed?  Do your research

Job and career fairs are frequently advertised online, and in addition to noting the time and location, you will definitely want to find out what types of companies will be hiring at the event.  You should also call 24 hours prior to the event to verify that it has not been canceled or rescheduled.  Otherwise, you could end up just wasting your time.

Sometimes, all is not as it seems

Your eagerness to get hired is understandable, but beware “investment opportunities” masquerading as career fairs.  Exercise caution when investigating any career event that requires up-front payment.  If there’s frequent talk about franchises or time-shares, head for the hills.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again

Dress for success!  Seriously, this is not a day at the beach, so put away the T-shirt and the flip-flops.  You might end up meeting your next boss, so dress like it’s a real job interview... because, well, it is.

Prepare your elevator pitch

Job fairs are like job search speed dating :  You’ll meet with many people... one at a time... with only a few minutes to impress them... and if you play your cards right, you might get what you’re looking for.  Therefore, draft and rehearse your best one-minute elevator pitch.  Besides your resume, it will be your strongest weapon in the often chaotic environment of the job fair.

In this case, more actually is better

If you want to stand out from the crowd—and trust me, there will be a crowd at most job fairs—then adopt the attitude that more is better.  Bring more resumes (at least 20); be more punctual than anyone else (arrive at least half an hour early); be more prepared (learn all about the companies that will be represented at the career fair).  The payoff will be more chances of getting hired.

Consider virtual job fairs, too

The advent of webcams and video conferencing has brought career fairs into the digital age.  What’s great about virtual job fairs is that attendance doesn’t require a long drive, gas money, or parking fees.  Still, you will probably need to invest in a webcam if you don’t already have one.  And remember, like a virtual job interview, they can see you from the shoulders up, so pajamas are a no-no.

So, are job and career fairs hip or hype? They may not be for everyone. Yet, if you attend, you can have the opportunity to meet the hiring decision-makers at organizations where you would work. Some will actually interview candidates at the fairs. So if you prepare the right way and use the tips above, you could land your next job offer at one of these events.