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The career fair – A racing thoroughbred or dead donkey

The humble Career Fair has been around so long that Noah may just have attended one when he considered majoring in ark building, but it does lead to the one question we all ponder – how effective is attending a Career Fair? The answer to that question is – how effective are you at job hunting?

The Career Fair | Fnbboston.orgA career fair is still a good way to get a job even after all these decades of brochure packed tables and free plastic bags have adorned assembly halls in every University, every year, in every town. The trick is to learn HOW to use them and make them work for you.

One of the best things to learn from attending a career fair is who is hiring. Though attending the fair does not cost the company any money, the travel, housing and feeding of staff does as well as the cost of all the branded pens and brochures that they give away. If they were not in a position to get a return on their investment, they would not do it. If they are attending the fair – they have jobs they need to fill. Another advantage is those companies who attend a career fair tend to be large corporations that have enough of a budget to go out in the community to find employees, or those that are local and have plenty of vacancies. Either way, it’s a good idea see what they have to offer.

From a job seekers perspective, a career fair is a chance to network with companies that regularly have vacancies, practice business building skills and start a path which may lead to their dream job. To make the most of it you need to make a few simple plans before you go.

One of the most fruitful things you can do, and practice, before you go to any career fair is to perfect your 60 second career pitch. Walking up to your dream company and saying ‘I love your products’ is not a new approach and will get you the same answers that the other 430 people that asked it that day received. A career pitch is your introduction to a possible employer and sets the expectation that puts you in the driving position.

An effective 60 second introduction starts with who you are, what your major is, what you do or have done, relevant skills and strengths and last but not least, what you expect to get from the career fair.  Sound difficult? How about, ‘Hello, my name is Laura, my major is in Economics which gave me an opportunity to spend a three-month internship with a national newspaper. It was a fantastic experience and allowed me to use my skills in statistical interpretation, forecasting, growth management and marketing application. I’m here today to see what opportunities there are in your company for someone who is hard working and highly skilled in your marketing department’.  An introduction as smooth, informative and confident as that will have the recruiter running around looking for more positions to tempt you with.

Along with the career pitch, don’t forget to dress with confidence. The pitch will not work if you deliver it looking like you haven’t combed your hair since last Christmas and you still have your pajamas on under your clothes. Smart business casual is the way to go as full business attire smacks of ‘overzealous fanatic’.  Leave the meeting with a handshake, and exchange your resume for a business card so you know who to follow up with a couple of days later.

Career fairs are a good way to get your name out and about and to start a network of movers and shakers that can put you in contact with the people that matter. Work the room like you have plenty to offer and the career fair will be a fruitful source of leads for the position you have always dreamed of.