Are career fairs a waste of time or are you wasting time at career fairs?
In 2002, I was on the job search in Israel a few months after leaving my job at Amazon.com in France.
I had just started looking for a programming-related job in e-commerce when I heard about a large upcoming tech career fair in the Tel Aviv area. I was a bit skeptical about going but I put it on my calendar.
Living in Jerusalem at the time, I later had to commute for over 90 minutes just to get to the fair.
Once registered and inside, I was handed a large bag of industry magazines and a map of the convention space, which I used to see if there were any interesting companies to apply to.
Armed with my resume, I spent the next 30-40 minutes walking around. I specifically remember giving out less than 10 copies of my resume in all and only having real conversations with two companies' HR rep.s.
I then had a return commute of over 90 minutes to get home, meaning that I spent much more time on the bus that day that actually progressing my job search at the fair.
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I felt like the fair had been a waste of time, but the truth was that I had wasted my time at the fair.
If I had known what I could accomplish at the fair, I would have had a more fruitful event.
Career fairs can be effective.
1) Get out of the house
It's become too easy to just job search from your computer and it's easy to forget that there really are many effective ways to progress in your job search outside.
2) Kickstart a dormant job search
Sometimes habit and routine are not the best thing. Going to a job fair should be a welcome change of pace.
3) Meet company representatives who are normally hard to reach
Some companies will send people who actually do have an impact on hiring decisions, access to whom would normally be blocked at their corporate reception desk.
4) Meet company representatives in a less-formal setting
There's a big difference between the atmosphere of a career fair and sitting across someone in an office. Company reps come with that in mind, and you need to take advantage.
5) Practice your elevator pitch
Just like the 30 seconds you might have to impress someone in an elevator ride, your chance to talk with a company rep. might be very short if there are a lot of people in line behind you at the fair, so you need to impress quickly.
6) Build your self-confidence with company representatives
By meeting with company reps in the informal setting of the job fair, even for only a minute or two, you'll break the ice and become more comfortable sitting across them in an office.
7) Make a better first impression
As you become more comfortable and your self-confidence grows, you'll make a better first impression as the fair goes on.
8) Research companies
Learn which companies you might want to work at, which open positions are relevant, etc., anything that can help you adapt your resume to align better with company needs.
9) Submit resumes and apply
If you think your resume will impress, submit it.
10) Get resume feedback
If you don't think your resume will impress, perhaps because it hasn't impressed others at the fair, ask for feedback from company reps. If you're lucky, the fair may also have local resume writers to help you.
11) Get contact information from company representatives
This could be to send them an improved version of your resume – based on feedback/better understanding of company needs – instead of the ones you brought to the fair, to schedule a job interview, or perhaps even to help a friend's job search with a referral.
12) Get free stuff from company representatives
In hopes of attracting the best job seekers, Google is famous for giving out free stuff or schwag at their recruiting booths: pads, pins, pens, magnets, yoyos, you name it. And people love taking it home too, and not just as a sign that the going to the fair was worth it.
13) Learn how industry players present themselves
Critical for students and first-time job seekers. This might be your first introduction to certain terms, expressions, techniques and more.
In the case of university job fairs, company recruiters want exposure to a new generation of potential candidates who many have never heard of them before.
14) Learn how your industry has changed
Critical for people who have been out of the job market for 5 years or more. Which companies have fallen out of favor? Which companies are hot? Who's getting hired there?
15) Learn about the demand for your current skillset
By browsing the open positions and talking to recruiters, judge where your current skillset would most be appreciated and if there are there skills in high demand that you don't have but could learn quickly enough to apply.
16) Learn about other industries where your current skillset is in demand
If you're considering a career change or just if you're open to one, recruiters and other company rep.s at the fair can make suggestions for positions they're trying to fill.
17) Learn about new kinds of opportunities you would have never imagined otherwise
Regardless of whether company reps make suggestions, keep your eyes and ears open for anything new and interesting, especially if there's demand for it i.e. more than one company has a related opening.
18) Learn about latest job market trends
Besides which skills are currently in demand (and which aren't), which techniques are working? Which techniques no longer work?
Ask company reps what kinds of candidates are impressing them most, ask them how the market has changed in the past year and how they think it will change in the coming year.
19) Compare companies and go deeper
Company representatives are supposed to represent everything the company is about. The first impression they make on you should have an impact on you deciding whether to spend your precious time chasing them for a job. After meeting the different companies at the fair, choose to go back for a second impression at the companies that deserve more of your time.
20) Network and make contacts
One of the most under-used job fair tactics is to talk to other job seekers at the fair! Share tips, job seeker business cards and feedback, and look for ways to help each other out.Most under-used job fair tactic: talk to other job seekers thereClick To Tweet
21) Meet your competition
Depending on what kind of fair you attend and the kind of position you're aiming for, the people in line with you may actually be the ones applying for the same openings. No need to be sneaky or manipulative, but if you have a great idea to stand out and impress a certain employer, you might want to keep it to yourself. That doesn't mean you can't learn from them, though.
22) Prepare questions and get answers
Take advantage of the quantity and different kinds of people at the event. Prepare some questions in advance that could affect the direction of your job search, then go out and ask people. Take a survey if that will help. Be bold.
23) Take in seminars and classes
In recent years, more and more fairs have begun offering free talks by job search experts and coaches, giving advice on how to get results now.
24) Save time in one location
While not all job fairs are created equal in what they offer job seekers, they do all offer job seekers many of the above possibilities in one single location, saving you a lot of time and effort.
25) Get inspired
If you try to do even half the things on this list at your next job fair, I guarantee that you'll get new ideas that will help move you forward to your next job, making it all worth it.
Are career fairs worth going to? Absolutely, if you know what to look for.
Question of the article
What was your most memorable job fair and why? Tell us in the comments.
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Job Search Expert, Professional Blogger, Creative Thinker, Community Builder with a sense of humor. I like to help people.