6 Ways To Get the Most Out of Job Fairs
Companies are starting to resume onsite operations, and this does not only work for work itself as corporations are now also trying out onsite job fairs, which may make or break today's fresh graduates.
When we tap on the resumption of onsite operations, professionals who have been a part of the workforce even before the pandemic may still have a sense of familiarity with how things will work in today's new normal. However, today's fresh graduates finished their degrees remotely, mainly with the use of various digital tools and virtual meeting platforms. So, while many college students either experienced or thrived at virtual career fairs during the pandemic, there's still this added anxiety about standing out at competitive in-person job fairs, especially with the fact that not only fresh graduates will be joining such events but also professionals who've had career breaks and are more experienced.
With this, quite a number of questions present themselves to these newbies: Are they ready for the real world? Are they capable of utilizing onsite career fairs at their best? Will the knowledge and skills they developed during the last few years of online learning be of benefit for them to seize both possibilities and opportunities?
If you're part of the batch set to enter today's workforce, you may find the following simple yet crucial tips handy to get the most out of physical job fairs to jumpstart your career journey.
CREATE A GAME PLAN
The first thing you'll need to be able to get the best out of an in-person career fair is to have a game plan.
It's not uncommon for job fair attendees to run out of time; therefore, you'll have to do your research before the event itself to formulate the best game plan that would allow you to at least go through the companies of your choice before you run out of time to meet everyone.
To do so, be sure to check the list of the participating companies to identify, highlight, and dig for information about the ones you intend to apply to in order to avoid missing them on the day of the event. Consume whatever information you can gather about these companies. It could be from company websites, LinkedIn profiles, news articles, and even public posts from current employees. Through this, you not only have an idea of how you'll present yourself once you talk to their representatives but also a picture of their corporate culture.
Now, the key to doing your research is not to stop there. Identifying your top choices doesn't mean discounting less-known companies or those not associated with your interest or industry as they might be offering just what you're looking for. So, just put a premium on the companies you're targeting, but research further into each employer. You never know!
PREPARE YOUR PITCH
First impressions are crucial, so you want them to be your best. With this, the next thing you'll need to have ready is how you'll be introducing and selling yourself as a capable and hireable professional.
Your self-introduction, also known as an elevator pitch, is a way for you to tell your story and demonstrate your professional strengths and skills the way you'd think you'd stand out from other applicants and make recruiters genuinely interested in you. It should contain a summary of your background, passion, capabilities, goals, and the value you can bring to the company. You can also insert a few talking points about yourself here and there to lead the interaction to a professional, conversational, and somewhat organic tone. The catch is it should be a short speech, usually around 30 to 60 seconds long (also to respect the recruiters' time, which isn't that long since they have to meet as many potential hires as possible), and with such a short time, you’ll have to make an impact right off the bat.
The key to mastering this is anchored on your research. Having thoroughly researched information about your target companies and other participating organizations, you should be able to write a piece tailored to each audience and figure out a way to answer the question, "why do you want to work here?" Remember, companies and recruiters have different priorities and pain points. You'll have to figure that out and find a way to pose yourself as exactly who they are looking for.
BRING ONLY WHAT’S NECESSARY
Next up is what you'll be bringing with you aside from yourself and your elevator pitch, and the quick answer is not much.
During an in-person job fair, you want to be able to move around from one corner of the hall to the other with ease, so you don't need a bulky briefcase or handbag. A purse to put your business cards, a couple of your necessities, and a pen and paper for note-taking is basically a given. Aside from that, you'll only need a folder or envelope for your professional portfolio (if you have one), several copies of your updated resume (and targeted resumes if you have them), and any information or print materials you'll be picking up at the event.
If, for instance, you're traveling a long distance to the event, you can also consider bringing extra business clothing with you, but remember to keep it light.
PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE
When the day of the event comes, it's normal to feel nervous, anxious, or intimidated, but you've come this far; why stop now? Job fairs are one of the ways to jumpstart your career journey, regardless of whether you get hired through it or not, so don't let such opportunities go to waste!
Opportunities do not always present themselves to you. Sometimes, you'll have to look for them to make things happen. So, go ahead and put yourself out there! You can test the waters by starting with an employer that is not among your target companies to warm up and practice your elevator pitch. Once you're ready, head to the names on your hit list and introduce yourself with a smile! Make eye contact, maintain a friendly vibe, remember to stay calm, and most importantly, be sure to get your resume in their hands and point out a thing or two on it that would substantiate what you're saying. The best time for that is while you tell them about your professional self. Job fairs are often fast-paced, leaving recruiters to move on to the next potential hire as quickly as possible even when they are still in front of one, so you'll have to double your efforts to keep their eyes on you or your resume instead of the other applicants roaming around.
You can also strike up a conversation with your fellow job seekers, regardless if they are your direct competition, because each chitchat during a career fair can be considered a lead or a helpful tip!
ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS (TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE AT THE RIGHT TIME)
Like in a typical job interview, the end of your conversation with a company representative at a job fair would be the time for your questions. Remember not to waste this opportunity to learn more about the employer, their culture, and their mission and vision, among others, to align and manage your expectations as well as appear as invested and interested as possible.
To do this effectively and leave a lasting impression, here's a quick look at how to interview your interviewer: Through the Eyes of a Recruiter: Interviewing the Interviewer.
DON'T FORGET (NOR HESITATE) TO FOLLOW UP
Even when the event ends and a day or two passes, your work is not done yet.
After the career fair, it's crucial to reach out to the connections you made, especially each potential lead or company that is either interested in hiring you or included in your original target list, to express your gratitude and refresh their memory of why you're a promising candidate. This crucial phase in the job search is frequently forgotten by young professionals, which usually leads to them being overlooked by companies in favor of applicants who took the initiative to follow up, so don't forget nor hesitate to do so.
It's okay for your messages to be short; just be sure to include your thanks, your interest in the position (be specific as to what role you're eyeing), and an inquiry on the next steps in the hiring process. You can also include a copy of your resume or LinkedIn profile and your portfolio or work samples to really remind them of the skills and capabilities that you're ready to bring to the table.
Before you head out to your first or next in-person career fair (or even if it's virtual), one thing to keep on top of your mind (above all the things listed in this article) is managing your expectations. You won't be the only person looking to get hired at a career fair, so better come in ready and consider the other benefits of attending one. Remember, getting hired is not the only good thing you'll get out of a career fair because, as a professional, strengthening your network and job prospects is just as crucial.