A room full of posters, freebies, and eager employers waiting for you to speak to them – it can all be a little overwhelming if it’s your first time to a careers fair. There’s every temptation to just grab a free pen and hover around while your more confident counterparts fire away one question after another, impressing the exhibitor with their enthusiasm. With various sector-specific fairs coming up, there’s a better approach to careers fairs than politely nodding along pretending to know what’s going on.
Why should I go to a careers fair?
Free pens and sweets aside, careers fairs provide a great opportunity for you to meet employers and find out about current projects they are working on. You can also ask about the latest vacancies, what the application process is like and market yourself. A lot of the exhibitors would have a recent graduate at their stand, so you can find out what it’s really like to work for that organisation. And if that’s not enough to convince you to go along to a fair, some students come away with useful contacts and even having secured an interview!
So do I just turn up?
When it comes to careers fairs, preparation is key. Employers appreciate students who have taken time to find out about their organisations by reading their websites.
“Students that stand out are the ones who say ‘I noticed on your website that your graduate scheme has two specialised training programs, one in investment and the other in management. Can you tell me a bit more about how the programs differ?’’’
Specific questions show your interest in the company and your efforts in preparation. A list of who will be exhibiting at each fair will be on the Events page on Engage, so you can research and plan which employers you want to visit and prepare specific questions to ask them.
What about presenting myself?
First impressions count, so dress smartly for the occasion. When meeting employers, be enthusiastic, smile, and introduce yourself – say your name, course, and year of study. Ask questions and engage in a dialogue with the exhibitor. Be mindful of other hovering students, and try to bring them into the conversation – this shows the exhibitor your awareness of others’ needs and it gives them a good impression.
The opposite of preparation is the complete lack of it. Avoid going up to exhibitors to ask them what their organisation does – you should already know this if you had prepared! As you move away from a stand make a note of who you have spoken to and their suggestions to you regarding applications. You may think you’ll remember the person’s name but as you visit different stands your memory will start to blur – the last thing you want is to confuse the names of different employers!
Ok I have just been to a careers fair, what next?
Employers appreciate a follow-up contact from students they have met at the fair. Make a list of the organisations you would like to follow up with, along with any application deadlines. Send an email to those exhibitors that you had a good rapport with to thank them for their time. This demonstrates initiative and will help the employer to remember you. When it is time to apply for jobs, make a point to mention that your interest in the organisation stemmed from ‘the careers fair, where xxx told me ……’ Doing so immediately shows your enthusiasm and your efforts to research their organisation.
So there you go. You have plenty to gain by participating in Careers Fairs. At the Career Development Centre, we organise various fairs with The Skills and Part-Time Jobs Fair (14th October) being the largest careers event in the year. We also host the following sector specific fairs in Semester 1, get the dates in your diary now:
- Science and Technology Volunteering Fair – 7th October
- Language Fair – 21st October
- Property and Construction Fair – 29th October
- Westminster Business Careers Fair and Alumni Panel – 11th November
- Social, Public, and Education Careers Fair – 18th November
- Computer Science Fair – 18th November
- Creative Career Fair – 27th January