Are you on a mission to find your next graduate job? While university careers fairs are ideal for checking out your options, they also provide the perfect opportunity to network with potential employers. But how do you make an impression when you're up against hundreds of other students? Here's our guide to making sure you stand out for the right reasons.
Before the date of your fair, it's crucial to find out which companies and organisations will be represented. As well as putting on general careers fairs, some universities also host fairs aimed at graduates looking to enter a particular profession, such as Law and Finance.
Once you've decided which fair to visit, plan to arrive early. This way you'll beat the queues and catch company reps at their freshest. Take a notebook and pen so you can jot down any helpful contacts and make sure you have a few pristine copies of your CV on you. Reps attending careers fairs are usually only interested in chatting with you, but you might receive the occasional request for a CV or even a business card.
Before you go, take some time to consider what you really want from your careers fair. Are you interested in a particular industry or company? If so, are you happy to find out some general information or do you want to focus on finding relevant work experience?
Careers fairs are also excellent places to discover more about company application processes. As well as sending experienced staff, many companies send recent graduates to represent them, so if you spot a youthful looking employee, grab the chance to ask a few questions about their experience. There may also be presentations on offer, but ask yourself whether these are really relevant before signing up.
Even if your top priority is to visit one or two companies you really like, it's worth keeping an open mind. You might even discover a brand new career option!
Never turn up to a careers fair without researching your target companies. Visit each company's website to find out about their requirements, their recruitment processes and the graduate roles on offer. Hopefully, a couple of questions will come to mind as you do this.
Whatever questions you decide to ask at the fair, make them interesting and specific. For example, you could ask company reps whether there are any particular skills and qualities they look for in a candidate. Asking an unusual but pertinent question could mean you come to mind in the future.
Dress to impress and you'll show potential employers that you're serious about your career. The dress code at careers fairs is definitely on the smarter side of smart casual, meaning no jeans or trainers. If you're not keen on wearing a full suit, opt for chinos and a shirt or a smart dress.
Of course, what you wear is only part of the picture. Employers are also impressed by enthusiasm, confidence and a warm personality. So smile, look interested and make sure your handshake is firm. This is your chance to network informally, without the pressure of being at an interview.
If you're nervous about meeting employees from the company you'd love to work for, why not visit one or two other stalls first? Think of it as a warm-up. You'll quickly get the hang of what works and what doesn't.
If you want to be remembered, it's worth sending your new contacts a polite e-mail to thank them for their advice on the day of the careers fair. You could also ask them to get in touch when any work experience opportunities come up. Follow your favourite companies on Facebook and LinkedIn to keep up to date with their news.
Take our tips on board and you'll make a great impression on the people who could one day be interviewing you. Good luck!
Anna Whitehouse writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency. Check out their website to see which internships and graduate marketing jobs are currently available, as well as their graduate jobs Manchester page for further opportunities.
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