Making the most of a careers fair: what can I do to prepare?
- Work out what you want from the careers fair
- Do your research
- Advance preparation for the day itself
- If you don't know what type of work you want
- At the careers fair
- After the careers fair
- Inside knowledge about a profession?
- Contacts in your sector to network with?
- Tips on graduate scheme applications from people who have been through it themselves?
- An employer’s opinion on your CV?
- More information about specific summer vacation, internship or work placement opportunities?
Look at the list of employers who will be attending the event and decide which ones can offer the type of work or similar that you are seeking. Remember that all organisations have staff in general business functions like marketing, finance, IT and human resources, so don't just head to the companies that are based within your work sector of interest.
Then, research the companies that interest you i.e. their background, what they do and their objectives. You can use their website and in some cases also find out where they have been mentioned in the media. This will help you appear more knowledgeable and engage in a fruitful conversation at the fair.
Bring a list of questions that you want to ask
Design your questions to show that you researched the company beforehand and are enthusiastic to know more about them. You could also ask the person you speak with about how they got into the company, what they enjoy about working in the industry and the next step in their career. Many companies have recently recruited graduates on their stands that can provide you with interesting and relevant information.
Plan your visit in terms of who you want to speak to, who you would like to approach first or if you would like help from careers services present on the day. Take a notebook, pen and a folder to carry copies of your CV and your business cards. Potential employers like to see good organisation and proactivity.
Prepare your CV and take copies with you
You may wish to tailor your CV to highlight the education, skills and work experience that are most relevant to your targeted companies or even prepare several different versions. First impressions count! So, make sure your CV is visually attractive and stands out.
Some companies prefer not to accept CVs at events, so you might choose to also take business cards, stating your contact details and a brief description of which area of work you are particularly interested in.
Remember that the Careers Service has Careers Counsellors who are available to help you with writing an effective CV. Book an appointment well in advance to make sure you can get your CV updated before the event.
Practice a pitch
Prepare a brief introduction about your knowledge, skills and abilities in 60 words. This will help you when companies ask you questions about yourself. For help with the place a look at the networking page or make an appointment to see a careers counsellor.
If you don't know what you want to do, think about the factors that will help you decide. What are your criteria for what you want out of your career? Make a note of what you want and ask the companies at the fair whether they can offer those, be they financial incentives, working styles or prospects to progress.
The fair is a good opportunity to network, find out more about current jobs on offer and help you make a more informed decision about your career path. Also, you can always book an appointment to see a Careers Counsellor to talk about career options.
- Dress the part
- Approach employers alone
- Use your prepared questions
- End on a positive note
- Advice from your Careers Service
Use your prepared questions to ease yourself into a conversation. Listen carefully to what they are saying in order ask more in depth questions and clarify what you would like to know. They then might ask you what you are looking for and you can make use of your prepared pitch.
End on a positive note. Thank the person for their time and for the information they have given you and let them know what you found interesting/valuable i.e. how you might use it in your job search/career planning. You can give them your CV/business card, if appropriate and reassure them you will be in touch.
If you run out of steam or ideas for whom to approach, it is worth having a chat to the careers service staff on site. We will be able to offer suggestions as to who you might benefit from talking to.
Use the event to make contacts who could help you find out more about your chosen career. Before you attend the event, take the time to read our advice on networking.
- Make a note of action points to follow up e.g. specific people to contact, application forms to write or further research.
- Reflect on what you have learned from talking to professionals in your sector about their experience. What do you know now that you did not know before? How is this useful to your career planning?
- If you are unsure what to do next, you can make an appointment to see a careers counsellor.