If you are a student who’s on the cusp of graduation, you may hear the word “career fair” buzzing among your friends and classmates. While many students attend career fairs, not many know how they can get the most out of the career fairs.
Career fairs ain’t just about filling up forms and dropping your resumes at different career booths. There’s so much more than that. A career fair is an excellent platform for you to network with people who could possibly be working in your dream organisation. Want to know some tips as to how you can ace at career fair networking? Let’s get started!
What to expect at a career fair
A career fair is really similar to speed dating – you want to impress the hiring managers of the company you’re interested in, in a short period of time. You want to show hiring managers that you are passionate and excited about the company and the job roles. Aside from handing out your resumes to hiring managers, take this opportunity to network with them. Build connections with them and find out what the company and work environment is really like.
As a student, this could possibly be the first time you are dipping your toes into the world of networking. Not sure how to do it? Here’s a 101 guide on the basics of networking.
1) Your self introduction
We know this may sound really basic but start of with a self introduction that gives your hiring manager a chance to put a face to your resume. Tell them what you are studying, when you will be graduating and the most important thing? Why you want to join their company!
Here’s a sample for your reference:
Hello, I’m a final year student who is majoring in X. I’ll be graduating in MM/YYYY. As an X student, I am interested in joining your company because ______ (here you can talk about how your studies have mould you to become interested in this job position/how you feel like the position there is a good fit for your career progression/ how your skills are able to help the company)
Think about it: hiring managers at career fairs spend long hours at the booths receiving resume after resume. Get them excited by telling them why that job position is totally your dream job. Give them an idea of why your career goals align with the company’s mission. Show them what you can do for them.
2) Knowing your goals for attending a fair
Many students walk around career fairs aimlessly, not knowing that career fairs are a huge platform to network with multiple organisations out there. But to ace at career fair networking, you gotta set some goals! Keeping in mind these goals while you walk around the fair would push you to achieve them.
These are possible goals:
- Connect with hiring managers to understand more about the different roles, responsibilities and requirements of the job positions available
- Discover new organizations that you may have not heard of and explore new opportunities (the more specific, the better)
- Networking with employers and industry leaders/hiring managers for future reference
- Submit your resumes and if possible, arrange for interviews
3) Ask thoughtful questions
Networking at a career fair is really a two-way street. The hiring managers may ask questions about your qualifications and work experiences to get to know you better. On the other hand, it is also important for you to ask hiring managers thoughtful questions to see if the job is a right fit for you. Asking thoughtful questions would also show your hiring manager that you have done some prep work before the fair, and you get a chance at impressing them.
Not sure what to ask? Check out these questions:
What is the career progression of this job?
- What are the roles and responsibilities of this job?
- What are some of the challenges faced in this job?
- What are the various opportunities of this job position?
- What are the skills and qualifications that are required for a candidate applying for this job position?
- How would you describe the company culture?
- Where will your company be in five years?
4) Exchanging contact information
At the end of the networking session, perhaps you could request for the hiring manager’s contact so that you could drop off your resume, online portfolio or just so you could further ask questions on the job position. Leave your contact information with them too (either your phone number or an email address) so that they can contact you if there are any suitable vacancies or internship programmes. Pro tip: get LinkedIn connections!
5) Leave a good impression (and your CV!)
Lastly, keep in mind that it is important to leave a good first impression to your hiring managers. Ensure that you stand out (and for the right reason). Dress in appropriate attire to show the hiring managers that you are really getting your game on. Also a pro tip: avoid selling yourself or coming across too aggressively.
The best kind of career fair networking is one that comes across as genuine and effortless. Be yourself and also, smile more! ☺
The checklist for career fair networking
Here’s the thing: career fairs may only occur for a couple of days, so you want to ensure that you spend your time effectively! To help you to be able to do so, consider preparing all these in advance so you can network easily on that very day.
Before the career fair
- Hard copies of your resumes (print extras, just in case)
- Portfolio or samples of your previous work, if available
- A map of the career fair booths layout so you know which booths to prioritize first
- A name/contact card, if necessary (especially if you are a freelancer and have an online portfolio)
- Think of possible questions to ask the recruiters/hiring managers
- Gather basic information of the various organisations you are interested in
- Set goals for your career fair networking
- Check your attire
- Create your elevator speech (a short speech to tell the hiring managers on who you are and how you stand out from the other applicants)
- A pen and notebook so that you can jot down any important information and contact details
After the career fair
- Follow up with hiring managers after the career fair
- Evaluate how the session went and see how you can improve in your next career fair
Need more tips on networking? We know how networking can be daunting for an introvert so here’s an article for the introverts. If not, for business development enthusiasts, you may want to check out these networking events that you can attend from Oct to Dec! Here are also more tips on how you can follow up and network with employers after a career fair has ended.
It is now up to you to go ace that career fair networking session and hopefully land yourself a position in your dream job. May the odds be ever in your favour.