Career fairs are a great way to network and meet a lot of different employers in a very short amount of time.  However, they can feel a bit overwhelming and exhausting especially if you’ve never been to one or have been out of the job search world for a while.  Here are a few tips that will prepare you to walk into a career fair feeling confident in yourself and ready to meet your future employer!

Plan ahead

Career fair organizers will usually post a list of participating employers on their website so you know who you can expect to see.  Take the opportunity to research each company, even if it’s not one you’ve been considering for a career opportunity. This will give you time to prioritize which organizations you really want to talk with at the fair.

Pro tip: Create a spreadsheet with the name of each employer you want to speak with, along with a box to check when you’ve visited their booth and another box to check if you left your resume or want to follow-up with that organization.  This will help you stay organized and feel less overwhelmed at the fair, while ensuring you don’t miss an employer you’d like to talk with!

Update your resume

Plan on distributing your resume to a lot of different employers at the career fair!  Take the time to update your resume with any recent experiences or accomplishments, and have several people proof-read it for you.

Once you’re sure your resume is ready, print it out on resume paper if you can or consider going to a local print shop to have it printed on a quality printer.  Store your resumes and the priority employer list you created in a padfolio with a pen and clean notepaper inside. That way you’ll have it all available at your fingertips!

Pro tip: Career Services is here to help you refresh your resume with a new layout, and bring your skills and experiences to life with engaging text. Contact Career Services, anytime for assistance! 

Dress for the job you want

The way you present yourself at a career fair should be the same way you present at a job interview.  First impressions are important, and if you attend a career fair in your gym clothes or uniform from the job you just came from, employers will not take you seriously and the conversation is already off to a bad start.

Career fairs are often held during the day, and that can mean you have to squeeze it in between classes or another job.  A couple of days before the fair, pick out the outfit you want to wear. Choose something simple, professional-looking, and easy to wear.

Pro tip: Try to pick pants and a top that are wrinkle-resistant, that way if you have to change between classes or jobs, you don’t have to worry about ruining your outfit in a bag.

Give yourself plenty of time

Easier said than done sometimes, but you want to avoid being in a rush when you attend a career fair.  You never know who you’ll meet and how long conversations might go. If the fair is busy, you may end up waiting around for a specific employer to be available to talk with you.  See if you can adjust your schedule so you have a good amount of time to spend at the fair, and really make the most out of it.

When you get to the fair, be sure to get a map of the employer layout and cross-reference it with your list of priority contacts.  Circle the employers on the map that match your list and plan your route so you’re not walking back and forth trying to locate specific booths.

Pro tip: A day or two before the career fair, do a quick drive-by of the facility where the fair will be held.  Get an idea of the parking situation and where you’ll be going for the fair itself. Sometimes career fairs are held in large arenas in city centers, and if you’re not familiar with the city you may find yourself overwhelmed and frustrated trying to find parking during a large event, which will cut down on the time you have left to actually attend the fair.

Be ready to talk about yourself

This can be the most difficult part of a career fair for job seekers!  A lot of people have a tough time talking about themselves, and it can be difficult to put together your passion, experience, and drive for working in an industry into a thirty-second pitch.  However, if you take the chance to write it out ahead of time and literally practice it in front of a mirror, you’ll feel more confident when you introduce yourself.

Not sure what your pitch should consist of?  Remember that it should be short and give an idea of your experience and where you’d like to go.  For example: “My name is Susan, and I’m currently working as an Environmental Specialist while completing my Master’s in Environmental Science and Sustainability.  I enjoy working with various non-profit organizations to educate different groups of people about obstacles facing our environment. I hope to serve in an organization that strives for education and awareness of our planet’s resources while implementing initiatives to support sustainability efforts in businesses and organizations.”

Pro tip: A week before the career fair, write out your thirty-second pitch on an index card.  Put it in your wallet or purse and practice it every day until the fair. Ask family and friends if you can practice in front of them as well.

Collect business cards

Be sure to collect a business card or other form of contact from employers you’d like to follow-up with.  Remember, you’re treating this like a job interview so you’ll want to send a follow-up thank you note to employers you had a good connection with.  If the person you spoke with mentioned putting you in touch with someone specific in their office, be sure to mention that in your thank you note as well.

Pro tip: Consider bringing a professional bag such as a laptop tote or messenger bag with you to the career fair.  You may find yourself collecting materials or giveaway items from booths with nowhere to put them only to be juggling things around when you’re trying to shake hands and talk with employers.  Having a professional-looking bag handy gives you a spot to store things that you can organize later.