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1. Know why you are going
You’re going to a career fair, so your obvious purpose is to get a j-o-b, right? Well, maybe. There are a ton of reasons why someone might want to go to a job fair. I went to hopefully get a job, but I also went to get more comfortable with career fairs and learn more about jobs offered in my field. It’s important to think about what else you want to get from going to a career fair because getting a job might not be in the cards. For me, I knew that I didn’t want to work full-time, but all the companies I wanted to work for were only hiring people about to graduate and willing to work full-time.
Even though I didn’t get a job from the career fairs, I gained a lot of information on where my jobs in my field are heading and going to a career fair by myself doesn’t scare me.
2. Building confidence and the right attitude
Before you go to your career fair, you need to build up your confidence. For my first career fair, I was very nervous, and I went by myself. Although I was nervous, I still felt confident that I would rock my first career fair! So, the first step is to imagine yourself doing well at the career fair. From there, think about what companies you’ll want to talk to and what skills you have that matches to it.
Try and get the list of employers that will be at the career fair before you go. At my university, we have a career website where students can make a profile and see job openings. On that website, there is a list of all the employers that going to be at the career fair. If you don’t have that at your university, you can ask someone at the career services if they have a list of companies that will be at that the fair. If that doesn’t work, ask if you can see which companies showed up last time.
Another way to build confidence is role-playing. Ask some friends and family if you can practice your pitch on them! Creating the right pitch takes time, but this article by Amanda from thehappyarkansan.com will help you craft one.
3. Essential must-haves
Resume – You never know where a conversation can lead! For me, writing my resume was difficult. Here’s a great article from classycareergirl.com to help you out. Maybe you’re stuck. You feel like you have done nothing or you haven’t done anything impressive. If you feel this way, check out Amelie from awondersadventure.com article here. She lists things that you can add to your resume!
Padfolio – Carrying a padfolio makes you look more professional than carrying around a backpack. The best part is padfolios aren’t expensive. For my first career fair, my dad gave me his old one. When I decided to buy a padfolio for my sister, she picked out this one. It’s held up well over the past year! Although I’m crazy about padfolios (my sister and I spent days looking for the right one), I didn’t use one at the last career fair I went to because I had nowhere to put my backpack. Did the world blow up? Nope! I still did well, so if getting a padfolio isn’t in the cards for you, you’ll be fine.
Business attire – I’m the girl who walks around in yoga pants and old t-shirts, so I had to buy myself some business attire. For women, the basic stables are a nice blouse or dress, slacks or skirt, and nice, closed toe shoes. For men, dress shirt, slacks, and business shoes. If you are low on funds, look into programs where you can get free business clothes. I was able to get some free clothes because a non-profit organization gives out free business attire before and during the career fair.
Just be warned, there is a real possibility that none of the clothes will fit you. I rarely look good in women’s size because the top half of the shirts tend to be too big and the pants’ legs are either too short or too long. So, I just go to discount stores like Ross and Savers and shop at the junior section for shirts and sometimes pants.
Notepad/Notebook – So much happens at a career fair, especially if you are there for a few hours. You want all the important parts to stay on your mind forever! In addition, you’ll want to give a “thank you” email to all the representatives you talked to. By writing facts about their companies and them down, you have a way to make your “thank you” email unique. Also, any hopeful tips about your industry should be written down once you receive it. Most padfolios come with a notepad, so you won’t have to worry.
Thank you template – You want to thank everyone at the career fair because it’s polite, will keep you on their mind, and foster conversation in the future. I won’t lie. I’m terrible at this part. I find excuses to not send the emails. Before I know it, forever and a day has gone by and it’s too weird to send the emails. Don’t do that! Create or find a template that you will actually use and fill it out the day of the career fair. Then, send it out. After you finish going to the career fair, you might not have a moment to yourself until later that night. Even if it’s past office hours, write and send them. Don’t let procrastination get the best of you.
4. Reflection time
Ask yourself this:
-Think about how you felt before, during, and after.
-What went right? What went wrong?
-What would you do over?
-What are you going to improve on?
– What insights did you gain and how will you use the new knowledge?
-How did you feel before, during, and after the career fair?
5. Last step
Breathe and remember that there are more career fairs out there and not all of them have to be perfect! Take a moment to congratulate yourself! So many students don’t make the effort to go even though their future selves will suffer. You took the time out of your day and said that you want to better your life and put your career development into your own hands!