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6 Quick Ways to Prepare For Your First Career Fair

6 Quick Ways to Prepare For Your First Career Fair

A career fair can be one of the quickest ways to find potential employers, but it can also be one of the most time-wasting activities if you don’t know why you’re there in the first place. Don’t get caught in the trap of walking around like a headless chicken for your first-ever career fair. Here’s how to prepare.

Study the floor plan

It’s staggering just how often I meet candidates who enter a job fair with no idea of where they’re heading. First of all, you want to know what booths will be most advantageous for you. If you are looking for jobs in the tech sector, your best bet is not going to be with companies that are mainly focused on administrative work. It also helps for you to know where the open positions are. Some companies attend career fairs when they don’t have any openings and are just looking for potential talent. These are the companies you should approach last. If companies are doing same-day interviews, approach these first. These will be the most time-consuming booths to visit, and you’ll have a better memory of what these companies do if you go to their booths first. This will maximize your time with recruiters relevant to your field.

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Be sure that you look and act professional

First impressions can make or break you. You wouldn’t walk into an interview wearing sweatpants covered in Cheeto dust from the night before, so you shouldn’t do it at a job fair either. Learn how to dress for an interview. Avoid perfume and cologne as much as possible, as a lot of workplaces in this day and age are scent-free. When you go to a job fair, you are basically selling yourself to potential recruiters, so you want to put your best foot forward. This means be well groomed and don’t forget deodorant — it happens! Keep some in a bag with you just in case you forget or get the nervous sweats. Remember to stay positive and alert. It is recommended that you dress the same as you would if you were attending an interview with the company. This rings especially true when the companies at your job fair are giving on-the-spot interviews.

Have multiple copies of your resume

As you plan your route around the job fair, you’ll want to make sure you have enough resumes for the recruiters you intend to speak to. You should also have more than enough to go to all the recruiters — do this because some tables may have multiple recruiters that would like to look at your resume at the same time. You also need to make sure your resume is in a chronological order if you are applying for different types of positions. This can be easily completed with a resume builder that can re-arrange work experience. This allows you to have your experience highlighted in a way that shows what you did and where you did it. If a recruiter asks you to email a resume, format it specifically for the job you are applying for.

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Know what types of questions may be asked

Research each company that interests you that will be attending the fair beforehand. This gives you a one up on all other applicants, because your first impression will be to impress the recruiters with how much you know about the company. Understand what kind of questions they could possibly ask you, whether they are just curious about your experience, or if you have a full-on interview there and then. This could be preparing a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis and then devising questions based around this, or it could be as simple as reading the company blog and bringing up some questions on an industry-related subject.

Prepare a short, one-minute speech

First impressions mean a lot, especially to a recruiter. They will notice your posture, if you’re absolutely terrified, or if you have spinach in your teeth from that panini you had at lunch. You want to be on your A-game when you are interacting with recruiters for the first time. You want to have a short speech that represents exactly who you are and why you can be beneficial to their company, a sort-of condensed elevator pitch. You want to have it rehearsed enough beforehand that you don’t stutter, stumble over your words, or say something completely different that ends up coming across as arrogant.

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Get business cards

This is the best time to start networking! It’s your first job fair and it’s going to be very intimidating. What you want to do is make the most of it, right? Get business cards from each of the recruiters you meet with, especially the ones in your preferred field. Meet other job seekers just like you — they may have connections in your area of interest. You could even go a step up and bring your own business cards. That’s something that can be deemed impressive. It will at least make you a little bit more memorable. And when you get those business cards, don’t forget to write a follow-up email! If you’re stuck or need some ideas, Hubspot has some great examples.

Featured photo credit: Flickr via flickr.com

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Joe Flanagan

Outplacement Specialist

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

Career advancement is an enticement that today’s companies use to lure job candidates. But to truly uncover growth opportunities within a company, it’s up to you to take the initiative to move up.

You can’t rely on recruiter promises that your company will largely hire from within. Even assurances you heard from your direct supervisor during the interviewing process may not pan out. But if you begin a job knowing that you’re ultimately responsible for getting yourself noticed, you will be starting one step ahead.

Accomplished entrepreneur and LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman said,

“If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward.”

It’s important to recognize that taking charge of your own career advancement, and then mapping out the steps you need to succeed, is key to moving forward on your trajectory.

Make a Point of Positioning Yourself as a Rising Star

As an employee looking for growth opportunities within your current company, you have many avenues to position yourself as a rising star.

As an insider, you’re able to glean insights on company strategies and apply your expertise where it’s most needed. Scout out any skills gaps, then make a point to acquire and apply them. And, when you have creative ideas to offer, make it your mission to gain the ear of those in the organization who can put your ideas to the test.

Valiant shows of commitment and enterprise make managers perk up and take notice, keeping you ahead of both internal and external competitors.

Employ these other useful tips to let your rising star qualities shine:

1. Promote Your Successes to Your Higher-Ups

When your boss casually asks how you’re doing, use this valuable moment to position yourself as indispensable: “I’m floating on clouds because three clients have already commented on how well they like my redesign of the company website.”

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Tell your supervisors about any and all successes. Securing a new contract or signing a new customer should be a cause for celebration. Be sure to let your bosses know.

2. Cultivate Excellent Listening Skills

Listen well, and ask great questions. Realize that people love to talk about themselves.

But if you’re a superb listener, others will confide in you, and you’ll learn from what they share. You may even find out something valuable about your own prospects in the company.

If others view you as even-minded and thoughtful, they’ll respect your ideas and, in turn, listen to what you have to say.

Check out these important listening skills: 13 Powerful Listening Skills to Improve Your Life at Work and at Home

3. Go to All Office Networking Events

Never skip the office Christmas party, your coworker’s retirement party, or any office birthday parties, wedding showers, or congratulatory parties for colleagues.

If others see you as a team player, it will help you rise in your company. These on-site parties will also help you mingle with co-workers whom you might not ordinarily have the chance to see. For special points, help organize one or two of these get-togethers.

Take the Extra Step to Show Your Value to the Company

Managers and HR staff know that it can be less risky – and a lot less costly — to promote from within. As internal staff, you likely have a good grasp of the authority structure and talent pool in the company, and know how to best navigate these networks in achieving both the company’s goals and your own.

The late Nobel-Prize winning economist, Gary Becker, coined the term “firm-specific,” which describes the unique skills required to excel in an individual organization. You, as a current employee, have likely tapped into these specific skills, while external hires may take a year or more to master their nuances.

Know that your experience within the company already provides value, then find ways to add even more value, using these tips:

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4. Show Initiative

Commit yourself to whatever task you’re given, and make a point of going above and beyond.

Position yourself so that you’re ready to take on any growth opportunities that present themselves. If you believe you have skills that have gone untapped, find a manager who will give you a chance to prove your worth.

Accept any stretch assignment that showcases your readiness for advancement. Stay late, and arrive early. Half of getting the best assignments is sticking around long enough to receive them.

5. Set Yourself Apart by Staying up on Everything There Is to Know About Your Company and Its Competitors

Subscribe to and read the online trade journals. Become an active member in your industry’s network of professionals. Go to industry conferences, and learn your competitors’ strategies.

Be the on-the-ground eyes and ears for your organization to stay on top of industry trends.

6. Go to Every Company Meeting Prepared and Ready to Learn

A lot of workers feel meetings are an utter waste of time. They’re not, though, because they provide face-time with higher-ups and those in a position to give you the growth opportunities you need.

Go with the intention of absorbing information and using it to your advantage — including the goals and work styles of your superiors. Respect the agenda, listen more than you speak, and never beleaguer a point.

Accelerate Your Career Growth Opportunities

A recent study found that the five predictors of employees with executive potential were: the right motivation, curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination. These qualities help you stand out, but it’s also important to establish a track record of success and to not appear to be over-reaching in your drive to move up in your company.

Try to see yourself from your boss’s position and evaluate your promote-ability.

Do you display a passion and commitment toward meeting the collective goals of the company? Do you have a motivating influence with team members and show insight and excellence in all your work?

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These qualities will place you front and center when growth opportunities arise.

Use these strategic tips to escalate your opportunities for growth:

7. Find a Mentor

With mentorship programs fast disappearing, this isn’t always easy. But you need to look for someone in the company who has been promoted several times and who also cares about your progress.

Maybe it’s the person who recommended you for the job. Or maybe it’s your direct supervisor. It could even be someone across the hall or in a completely different department.

Talk to her or him about growth opportunities within your company. Maybe she or he can recommend you for a promotion.

Not sure how to find the right mentor? Here’s How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed.

8. Map out Your Own Growth Opportunity Chart

After you’ve worked at the company for a few months, work out a realistic growth chart for your own development. This should be a reasonable, practical chart — not a pie-in-the-sky wish list of demands.

What’s reasonable? Do you think being promoted within two years is reasonable? What about raises? Try to inform your own growth chart with what you’ve heard about other workers’ raises and promotions.

Once you’ve rigorously charted a realistic path for your personal development within the company, try to talk to your mentor about it.

Keep refining your chart until it seems to work with your skills and proven talents. Then, arrange a time to discuss it with your boss.

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You may want to time the discussion around the time of your performance review. Then your boss can weigh in with what he feels is reasonable, too.

9. Set Your Professional Bar High

Research shows that more than two-thirds of workers are just putting in their time. But through your active engagement in the organization and commitment to giving your best, you can provide the contrast against others giving lackluster performances.

Cultivate the hard skills that keep you on the cutting edge of your profession, while also refining your soft skills. These are the attributes that make you better at embracing diverse perspectives, engendering trust, and harnessing the power of synergy.

Even if you have an unquestionably left-brain career — a financial analyst or biotechnical engineer, for example — you’re always better off when you can form kind, courteous, quality relationships with colleagues.

Let integrity be the cornerstone of all your interactions with clients and co-workers.

The Bottom Line

Growth opportunities are available for those willing to purposely and adeptly manage their own professional growth. As the old adage says,

“Half of life is showing up.”

The other half is sticking around so that when your boss is looking for someone to take on a more significant role, you are among the first who come to mind.

Remember, your career is your business!

More About Continuous Growth

Featured photo credit: Zach Lucero via unsplash.com

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