While job growth may have been reported in recent news, the stability of the economy remains to be a question. For those of us looking for a new job, those job growth numbers sound like fake news.
But in fact, even in the worst economies, our country is strong. Jobs are almost always available. The trick is finding them, and then convincing the employers that you’re the right person for the job.
There are many ways to find a job. Search online. Go to networking events. Pounding the pavement. One of the ways is to attend job fairs. Hitting up a job fair can be incredibly efficient. You can visit with multiple employers who are actively looking for people to fill their needs!
You may be currently unemployed and looking for a job, period. You may be working, but looking for a better option than your current job. Either way, you should consider visiting a job fair. There may be job fairs in your local market, or you may travel to one specific to your industry. Many industry organizations host annual conferences, and job fairs are often on the conference agenda.
However, you probably don’t have intensive experience in how to work a job fair. Let me help you with the below tried and true tips!
1. Look the part, comfortably
Looking the part is important. Often, this means looking professional and put together. For the ladies, wear flats. Purchase a pair of dressy flats (unless you’re already used to live in heels). Don’t be tempted to look “good” by experimenting with wearing heels. Now is not the time. Your feet will be hurting before the fair is half done, and it would get increasingly difficult for you to put your smiley face on. The rule of being comfortable while staying professional extend to the gentlemen as well. To this end, if you’re traveling, consider bringing an extra set of your professional clothes. If suits are the norm for your industry, consider bringing an extra suit or invest in a washable suit. Once, I had a spill during the conference, and I was lucky that my suit was washable. If you choose the extra suit route, the back-up suit obviously would not need to be as nice / expensive.
2. Never run out of resumes
Bring a lot of resumes. In fact, bring a jump drive with your resume, writing sample, portfolio, etc. on it. Just in case you need it, you could always go to a nearby business center to print as needed.
3. Plan ahead
Do your research well ahead of the time. Many job fairs set up a website with job postings. Figure out which employers would be there. Know your targets. Apply ahead if you can. Try to set up interviews for the fair well ahead of the time, if you can. For one fair, I had 8 interviews lined up prior to even going to the fair. Everything that I got while actually at the conference was gravy.
4. Arrive Early
Plan to arrive early, and go to the fair site. Sometimes, there is an early check-in set up, and you could get your registration package the night before. The lines for early check-in are usually far shorter! This would allow you to have more time during the actual fair. Even if you missed the early check-in time, make an effort to stop by the convention center before the actual fair if you want to maximize the fair opening hours. One, you want to get familiar with the site. You wouldn’t want to lose any time during fair opening hours getting lost. Two, even if you didn’t get your official package, there may be event maps lying around. Pick one up. That is perhaps the single most important piece of material besides your security badge. You want to study that map the night before. You want to figure out a warpath. You want to figure out what is the most efficient way to hit up all the employers you wanted to visit.
5. Strategically visit your target companies
Visit your #1 target company second. This is perhaps my most important tip. Don’t bother wasting time on an employer in which you have absolutely no interests. However, there are those that are at the end of your list. Pick one of those as your first visit. Often time, similar jobs have similar job fair interactions. So, by staying within your list, you would just get more practice on how to interact with these companies. You would get used to the questions they’d ask. You would get better at making a good first impression. So, don’t waste time with companies not on your list. But, why pick one of the ones on the end to start? Because inevitably you would be nervous. Truthfully, this is your guinea pig visit. Work off your nerves. Get a good real-life practice. If you happen to nail this, great. If not, you would just move on to those higher on your list. Why visit your #1 company second? You would be still awake, full of adrenaline early in the day. You would be at the best of your game early on, so use that toward your top companies. In addition, each company reserves some at-the-fair interview spots for candidates they meet during the fair. However, these spots go fast. If you want to get on one of these spots still, you need to make sure you visit them early on.
6. Don’t waste your time
Along with the above point, don’t bother visiting with companies with which you already have interviews scheduled till later. Prioritize the companies you still need to get on their interview schedule first.
7. Work the booths
If you plan your time carefully, you should have time to browse the fair. Browse. Discover new opportunities. You may find that you’re qualified for more jobs than you previously thought!
Network! Network! Network! Besides the fair itself, some companies host social events alongside these fairs to get to know candidates more. Go to these events hosted by your target companies, if they are available. You may meet additional contacts within your target companies. Additionally, you may be surprised by who you may meet amongst the job seekers! These events usually attract people in similar fields, and everyone in attendance likely has a few valuable contacts within the industry. You may find out about these events at the fair itself. The better option is to do research ahead of the fair. These events are often posted on the job site, and RSVPs may be accepted and space may be limited. Beyond these official activities, keep an eye out for other opportunities to say “hi”. Maybe you’re making a coffee stop. Be friendly to the person behind you in line. You never know who you may meet!
Good Luck and Good Hunting!
About Jeannie Chan
I am a brand strategist, a marketer, and occasionally a writer who raises the questions that when addressed empower growth for organizations large and small. If you’re interested in reading more of my writing, check out Curious: a publication for every entrepreneur. To learn more about me or to get in touch, visit JeannieChan.com.