Careers fairs help to you to find companies that match your career aspirations and eliminate those that don't. You can also learn more about student internships, work experience opportunities, and providers of postgraduate courses, but in person. Even if none of the careers or options on offer seem for you, the chance to speak to graduate recruiters and check out the competition is invaluable. Entrance is free, and though most graduates will go away with nothing more than a goody bag and a clearer idea of their career options, a lucky few will leave with a job.
Why should I go to a graduate careers fair?
They are an excellent way to find out about work informally. You can quiz the recent graduates about what life in their organisation is like, and you can ask the employers questions about your prospects with them. You can raise specific queries, discuss alternatives, and give recruiters your graduate CV. As well as graduate recruiters, graduate jobs boards and recruitment agencies (such as GRB) will also be present, encouraging you to sign-up to their free one-stop shop recruitment service.
What do I have to do at a careers fair?
Go with an open mind, and ask lots of questions. Prior to a fair, there will be a list displayed on the organiser's website of all the graduate recruiters attending the event. It is a good idea to look at this beforehand so that you can work out in advance the questions you want to ask your prospective employers. You never know, you might impress them on the day and leave with a job or interview in hand.
The role of employers
Employers are at graduate career fairs is to market their organisation and opportunities to you, as well as seeking good potential recruits. They may take note of your interest, suggest you apply and await your application. It is not compulsory to dress smartly, but be sure to make a good impression. Show a genuine interest in the business, ask them constructive questions, and if you have any knowledge of the sector they work in, try and bring it up in conversation. Employers will be impressed if you can boast industry knowledge that other students can't.
The steps to a successful careers fair
Preparation is key
Find out who's exhibiting and which recruiters you definitely want to see. Each fair will have an exhibitors' list and floor plan so you can plot your route. Research the companies you're interested in and bring along sufficient supplies of your up-to-date CV.
Get there early and avoid the rush
Fairs tend to be busier at the beginning or near the end so aim to get to employers before they see too many people, if they have seen a smaller number of people, they are more likely to be interested in your CV when you visit them.
Research the requirements
Understand the skills, qualities and experience that will appeal to a prospective employer, try your hardest to convey the useful skills you have.
Perfect your sales pitch beforehand
Make it short but persuasive, tailoring it if possible to the specific company. Try and show insider knowledge, if you don’t have any for that sector, then appear enthusiastic and try and find out more.
Recruitment fairs may be more casual than they used to be but you should still dress smartly. Avoid appearing scruffy and breathing toxic fumes from last night's pub crawl all over prospective employers.
Use careers fairs to network with as many employers as possible. You should practise your interview techniques and be prepared to be put on the spot. The more fairs you attend, the better you'll get at both professional networking and formal interviews.
Even if some of the companies aren’t based in the sector you are interested in, it could be useful to look at some opportunities regardless. Larger businesses, even if they’re primarily based in one sector, offer roles in a variety of others too.
Graduate career fairs can be a great way to secure graduate employment or find out more about a sector. If your university offers multiple careers fairs throughout the year and in different sectors, try going to the first one as a trial. Practise your skills and try and understand which employers want what. The next time, you will be extra-prepared.