Summertime is career fair time in the world of recruiting and on Thursday, May 28th David Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN will be hosting a Career Expo that is being organized by my friend Matt Lowney (for more information click here).
To help you get prepared for this career event (if you live in Nashville) or others in your area, here are eleven quick things (in no particular order) you can do to survive and thrive at career fairs –
1) Have realistic expectations (i.e. you will not get hired on the spot).Most job-seekers go to career fairs with the expectation of walking away from the event with a job. In reality, the chances of you actually finding a job at a job/career fair are very slim (if you land something there you should probably play the lottery right afterwards) so most go away disappointed. Additionally, you can expect long lines, employers that are frazzled, don’t want to be there, and aren’t hiring.
2) If you’re not going to find a job, know why you should go. Networking is the key to finding a new opportunity and career fairs offer job-seekers one of their best chances to network with employers, recruiters and other job-seekers (others in career transition can be some of your best networking contacts).
3) Take advantage of the other services offered at the career fair. Many career fairs offer more than just employers at booths – they offer educational classes, résumé reviews, and opportunities to speak with career coaches. In many cases you can tell the motivation of the organizer of the event. If all they offer are employers they are probably more worried about making money but if they offer other services (like the ones mentioned above) they probably have the career seekers best interest at heart.
4) Never (and I mean EVER) ask the company you are speaking too, “So, what do you guys do?” In most cases that question is the kiss of death and you WILL be tuned out shortly there after. You should treat a career fair like you would an interview and do research on the companies that are participating. If there is not a list beforehand (there is probably a reason there is no list if one is not made available) then pay attention to the interaction between the person in front of you and the employer to figure out who they are and what they do.
5) Know what you want to do and what value you bring to the table. If you cannot articulate what it is you want to do and why someone should be interested in you there are 100 people right behind you at the career fair that will be able to. Understand where you fit and why you are a great candidate BEFORE you get there, not when you are standing in line.
6) Start with the companies that matter least. I know this sounds a little bit backwards but you will probably be a little nervous when you get there so it is better to start with an organization you see as ‘less important’ and mess up there than with the company you really want to see.
7) Just because a company does not have a current opening or is not on your target list you STILL need to speak with them. See number two above – you never know who they know or what information they might have.
8.) Dress and act appropriately.This is self explanatory but needs to be said time and time (and time) again. You never know who you are going to run into when you attend a career event so act and present yourself as a professional to both the career seekers and the employers.
9) Bring the appropriate marketing materials. This is another one that is self explanatory but do not leave the house without business cards, résumés, and an effective elevator speech that describes who you are, what you do, and what your value is.
10) Bring breath mints. I know this seems pretty odd to put breath mints in this list but you will have the potential to interact with a lot of people at a career event and you do not want to develop dragon breath. My personal favorites are Breath Savors – they are sugar free, taste great, don’t rattle in your pocket, and are inexpensive.
11) Get a business card and follow-up. Although you will probably not have much success the day of the career event it doesn’t mean you can’t have success a few days afterwards. Get a business card or contact information from everyone you meet and reach out to them a few days afterwards, thank them for their time, and ask for a short 10-15 minute networking meeting.
So remember – if you go to a career fair with the right expectations and point of view, bring the right materials, and know what you want to do and what value you bring to the table it can be a worthwhile event to meet new people, ler
If you do make it to the event on Thursday at Lipscomb I hope you join me for a discussion on résumés I will be leading.
Until then, good hunting and good luck!