Operation Careers Fair: Getting the most out of what's on offer
Here are the six steps to make the most of your Career's Fair:
1. Do your research
Planning ahead can be vital for making the most out of Careers Fairs. Otherwise, entering the Fair you can meander your way through the whole fair and leave with a stack of brochures and little idea of what you've missed. Firstly, universities often have a list online of who is attending the fair and this should be your first point of call. Who on the list interests you, who might interest you and what do you want to know from these employers.
You will surprised how much effort the larger companies and some of the smaller companies put into their graduate recruitment programmes. So a few quick bits of googling will help you tailor your approach and your questions for the representatives of each company.
2. Bag as much information as you can
In a similar vein to Freshers Fairs, you know the routine. Awkward hellos, nervous shuffling between stands and anxious conversations, followed by abrupt an end to the conversation and signing off by the Employer/Society/Stand occupant handing you some form of literature. Make sure you hold onto these pieces of information. While you will speak to many people during the course of the fair, you need to make sure you have something to job your memory down the line.
3. Apply your research
The phrase "no such thing as a stupid question" has some significance at Careers Fairs. The whole concept of graduate jobs and graduate recruitment is another world, filled with jargon and modes of operating that can take some getting used to. But for employers attending your fair it will be highly unlikely that this is their first Fair, so don't feel stupid asking questions that might seem trivial to them, but it is something that has left you stumped or confused.
On a side note to this, while there might not be anything as a stupid question, a lazy approach to questioning employers should not be adopted. Approaching employers like a yesteryear bobby and stating "what's all this then" will not endear you to employers. They're looking to talk to potential employees so this approach can put backs up and come across as disinterested.
4. Be presentable
In the good old US of A, these Careers Fairs are viewed as genuine employment opportunities where you can actually impress employers and make real headway in getting a graduate job. Back in dear old Blighty however, this approach is not as rigorously adopted, but that doesn't mean your approach should be so relaxed is verging on nonchalant.
You do not need to turn up to these events in your Sunday best. They're not going to hire you on the spot, because we all know it's not that easy. But turning up with last night's vomit on your shoes won't help either. Graduates need to be aware that first impressions will count and the company's representatives are often those who review applications. So be sure to introduce yourself and look like the kind of model student that they'd love to employee. Being suited and booted could come across as being over keen, but looking on the smarter side of the ever ambiguous smart-casual will certainly go down well.
5. Be open minded
Careers Fairs role around at this time of year, so the terror of not being sure of what you want to know will not have reached breaking point just yet. However, this can be an excellent opportunity to explore your options. Using this opportunity to politely enquire about what employers have on offer can be excellent to see whether certain sectors would suit you after you've left university. Whether you look back on your degree and match your skills to what the jobs and schemes or demanding or find areas that you think would suit your personality, employers understand you might not be totally bang on one career and are inquisitive about your options.
A horrible professional-speak word, but you should use this opportunity for Networking. In layman's terms this means introducing yourself to people, being friendly and polite while silently sizing up what they can offer you in the future. In this case this is you looking for a graduate job or to get yourself a place on their graduate scheme. Make sure you introduce yourself to people you speak to and to try and get a business card or some contact details from the employers.
Then always follow up. Speaking to employers later down the line to refresh their memory of you is an excellent way and also a good way to boost your chances, as long as you made a good impression. Follow up emails don't have to be anything special and don't even need to be necessary but for their own sake. Even if you ask a question over email that you already know the answer to, within reason, can be a good way of jogging their memory of the interesting industry related discussion you had at the fair.
By James Howell