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6 Quick Ways to Prepare For Your First Career Fair

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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 25, 2021

Why Personal Branding Is Important to Your Career

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Why Personal Branding Is Important to Your Career

As a recruiter, I have met and interviewed hundreds of candidates who have no idea who they are.

Without a personal brand, candidates struggle to answer the question: “tell me about yourself—who are you?” They have no idea about who they are, what their strengths are, and how they can add value to the company. They present their CV’s believing that their CV is the key to their career success. In some ways, your CV still has its use. However, in today’s job market, you need more than a CV to stand out in a crowd.

According to Celinne Da Costa:[1]

“Personal brand is essentially your golden ticket to networking with the right people, getting hired for a dream job, or building an influential business.” She believes that “a strong personal brand allows you to stand out in an oversaturated marketplace by exposing desired audiences to your vision, skillset, and personality in a way that is strategically aligned with your career goals.”

A personal brand opens up your world to so many more career opportunities that you would never have been exposed to with just your CV.

What Is Your Personal Brand?

“Personal branding is how you distinctively market your uniqueness.” —Bernard Kelvin Clive

Today, the job market is very competitive and tough. Having a great CV will only let you go so far because everyone has a CV, but no one else has your distinct personal brand! It is your personal brand that differentiates you from everyone else and that is what people buy—you.

Your personal brand is your mark on the world. It is how people you interact with and the world see you. It is your legacy—it is more important than a business brand because your personal brand lasts forever.

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I have coached people who have very successful careers, and they come to me because they have suddenly found that they are not getting the opportunities or having the conversations that would them to their next role. They are having what I call a “career meltdown,” all because they have no personal brand.

A personal brand helps you become conscious of your differences and your uniqueness. It allows you to position yourself in a way that makes you stand out from the pack, especially among other potential job applicants.

Don’t get me wrong, having a great CV and a great LinkedIn profile is important. However, there are a few steps that you have to take to have a CV and LinkedIn profile that is aligned to who you are, the value you offer to the market, and the personal guarantee that you deliver results.

Building your personal brand is about strategically, creatively, and professionally presenting what makes you, you. Knowing who you are and the value you bring to the table enables you to be more informed, agile, and adaptable to the changing dynamic world of work. This is how you can avoid having a series of career meltdowns.

Your Personal Brand Is Essential for Your Career Success

In her article, Why Personal Branding Is More Important Than Ever, Caroline Castrillon outlines key reasons why a personal brand is essential for career success.

According to Castrillon,[2]

“One reason is that it is more popular for recruiters to use social media during the interview process. According to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey, 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates during the hiring process, and 43% of employers use social media to check on current employees.”

The first thing I do as a recruiter when I want to check out a candidate or coaching client is to look them up on LinkedIn or other social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Your digital footprint is the window that highlights to the world who you are. When you have no control over how you want to be seen, you are making a big mistake because you are leaving it up to someone else to make a judgment for you as to who you are.

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As Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, once said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.”

In her book, Becoming, Michelle Obama writes about the importance of having a personal brand and her journey to defining her personal brand. She wrote that:

“if you don’t get out there and define yourself, you’ll be quickly and inaccurately defined by others.”

When you have a personal brand, you are in control. You know exactly what people will say about you when you leave the room.

The magic of a personal brand is that gives you control over how you want to be seen in the world. Your confidence and self-belief enable you to leverage opportunities and make informed decisions about your career and your future. You no longer experience the frustrations of a career meltdown or being at a crossroads not knowing what to do next with your career or your life. With a personal brand, you have focus, clarity, and a strategy to move forward toward future success.

Creating your personal brand does not happen overnight. It takes a lot of work and self-reflection. You will be expected to step outside of your comfort zone not once, but many times.

The good news is that the more time you spend outside of your comfort zone, the more you will like being there. Being outside of your comfort zone is where you can test the viability of and fine-tune your personal brand.

5 Key Steps to Creating Your Personal Brand

These five steps will help you create a personal brand that will deliver you the results you desire with your career and in life.

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1. Set Your Personal Goals

What is it that you want to do in the next five years? What will your future self be doing in the next five to ten years? What is important to you? If you can answer these questions, then you are on the right path. If not, then you have to start thinking about them.

2. Create Your Unique Value Proposition

Create your unique value proposition by asking yourself these four questions:

  1. What are your personality features? What benefit do you offer people?
  2. Who are you and why do people enjoy working with you?
  3. What do you do and what do people want you to do for them? How do you solve their problems?
  4. What makes you different from others like you?

The answers to these questions will give you the information you need to create your professional story, which is the key step to creating your personal brand.

3. Write Your Professional Story

Knowing who you are, what you want, and the unique value you offer is essential to you creating your professional story. People remember stories. Your personal story incorporates your value proposition and tells people who you are and what makes you unique. This is what people will remember about you.

4. Determine Which Platforms Will Support Your Personal Brand

Decide which social media accounts and online platforms will best represent your brand and allow you to share your voice. In a professional capacity, having a LinkedIn profile and a CV that reflects your brand is key to your positioning in relation to role opportunities. People will be connecting with you because they will like the story you are telling.

5. Become Recognized for Sharing Your Knowledge and Expertise

A great way for you to promote yourself is by sharing knowledge and helping others. This is where you prove you know your stuff and you gain exposure for doing so. You can do this through social media, writing, commenting, video, joining professional groups, networking, etc. Find your own style and uniqueness and use it to attract clients, the opportunities, or the jobs you desire.

The importance of having a personal brand is not going to go away. In fact, it is the only way where you can stand out and be unique in a complex changing world of work. If you don’t have a personal brand, someone will do it for you. If you let this happen, you have no control and you may not like the story they create.

Standing out from others takes time and investment. Most people cannot make the change by themselves, and this is where engaging a personal brand coach is a viable option to consider.

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As a personal brand coach, working with my clients to create their personal brand is my passion. I love the fact that we can work together to create a personal story that defines exactly what people will say when you leave the room.

Other People’s Stories

Listening to other people’s stories is a great way to learn. In his article, 7 TED Talks About Personal Branding, Rafael Dos Santos presents the best Ted Talks where speakers share their stories about the “why,” “what,” and “how” of personal branding.((GuidedPR: 7 TED Talks About Personal Branding))

Take some time out to listen to these speakers sharing their stories and thoughts about personal branding. You will definitely learn so much about how you can start your journey of defining yourself and taking control of your professional and personal life.

Your personal brand, without a doubt, is your secret weapon to your career success. As Michelle Obama said,

“your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.”

So, go own your story. Go on the journey to create your personal brand that defines who you are, highlights your uniqueness, and the value you offer to the world.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

Reference

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