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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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More by this author

Joe Flanagan

Outplacement Specialist

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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