Spring is in the air – or it was in the air until today if you are on the east coast – and it is time for career fairs to sprout up everywhere. Upcoming grads, new alumni and not-so-new alumni are out looking to see what is available for them. A lot of options are available if job seekers play their cards right. The career fair is an awesome place to explore and make new potential connections. Despite the target rich concentration of opportunities, many job seekers fail to connect with recruiters in a meaningful way. Quite possibly because they might be overwhelmed and feel lost in a sea of suits?
To make the event work – you must have a strategy. You must develop a game plan for spanning the terrain, sizing up your target and moving in to make the connection. Unfortunately, we can always tell the candidates who are unprepared and knew little more than the fact that they were going to a career fair. They are usually the folks head down in programs or room layout and wandering aimlessly up and down the aisles, stopping to talk only to those who are free, just because they are free and not because the company was a target employer of theirs.
Some quick career fair do’s:
1. Do identify a target number of companies that you want to connect with for a few minutes each – Have an actual list. Search the map before you enter the employer space and get your bearings.
2. Do have a 30 second introduction that accompanies your error free resume.
3. Do prepare questions you specifically want to ask, based on prior research. Begin your sentences with a fact you know eg. “I saw that you are opening a new division in xyz, are there any opportunities in xyz?
4. Do have a 30 second statement to ask for the follow-up if you are interested if and only if you are interested. Most people miss this piece! Eg. “I would really like to talk more in depth with you about xyz, how may I follow-up with you?” If you get a card, you have 48 hours to follow-up.
Some quick career fair don’ts:
1. Do not go in packs – ditch your friend, your ride, your parent or whoever is accompanying you and arrange a time to meet.
2. Do not pick up “goodies” without first a conversation with the recruiters. Do not do the side swipe for a cool pen while the recruiter is speaking with someone else.
3. Do not stand in lines more than 2 people deep. Time is important, especially if you are on your lunch hour like a lot of others. Make the rounds and comeback if the company is really on your list.
4. Do not ask the same questions the person before you did if you heard all the answers. Build on what you heard and advance the conversation.
5. Do not hover, look lost or confused. Work the room with purpose. Feeling lost or overwhelmed, exit the room and gather yourself.
No question that career fairs can be overwhelming but with a little bit of preparation is truly easy to have career fair success despite the sea of suits.