Looking for your first graduate job while you're still in uni might seem like a monumental task...
Luckily, career fairs are held to help alleviate some of the job-hunting woes by providing the opportunity to get out there and make an impression. These events are designed to help you get out there and meet potential employers face-to-face (or face-to-screen, if we're talking virtual careers fairs). You'll rub shoulders with some of the UK's top employers and leave with more flyers and business cards than you thought it was possible to carry.
Overall, a pretty decent time.
But how do you make the most of it while you're there? Should you be going up to every booth or take it as an opportunity to niche down and connect with a specific industry?
Luckily we're here to answer all your burning career-fair questions. Here's how to make the most out of your day:
1. Know what you're looking for, but keep an open mind
Career fairs are essentially controlled chaos. You'll want to know what you're in for by checking the list of companies that will be in attendance before you attended. This will help you narrow in on the employers you'd like to connect with and cut down on any unneeded lines or workshops (more on those later!). However, career fairs are also a great way to discover new employers or routes to industry that you might not have considered - so make sure you keep an open mind and soak up the experience.
2. Prepare your elevator pitch
To help you make the most of your experience, it's a good idea to have a little bit of an elevator pitch ready. You don't need to write up a script and recite it word-for-word each time, but having a quick summary will help you introduce yourself and connect with your desired organisations. You should include what you are studying, your experience, and what you are looking to achieve in a career. Make sure to keep the conversation light and open and you'll be sure to have a fruitful day.
3. Check out any workshops beforehand
Many career fairs also offer workshops to help you make the most of your day. These can cover anything from "how to write your CV or cover letter", to "how to network", or even offer advice on passing the interview process. Like the employers in attendance, these workshops are usually listed before the fair begins so that you can get a good scope of what's on offer.
4. Come prepared and ready to engage
The best way to get the most out of the fair is to actually give back. That means having a solid plan to hand and staying enthusiastic throughout the duration of the day. Careers fairs typically only last a few hours, and you're under no obligation to remain there the whole day, so use it as a way to connect and learn more about the work each organisation is doing. Don't be afraid to ask questions and leave graciously once you feel you've got all you can out of the day.
5. Dress comfortably and feel your best
You'll be glad to know there's no formal dress code at careers fairs. Now that that's out the way, we'll tell you that the best thing to wear is something comfortable. Remember that you're going to be on your feet most of the day, so it's a good idea to leave the high heels at home and dress smart-casual for some comfort. Make sure you also bring some whatever with you, and maybe some snacks for energy.
6. Be considerate of the employers' time
Queueing is an inevitable part of the career fair experience. You're going to find several company reps crammed into a room with a fair number of students. So it's important to use your time wisely and remember that each representative has taken time out of their day to come to meet you. Always be polite and considerate of those around you, and use your time wisely.
7. Network like there's no tomorrow
obviously, the primary function of a career fair is to help you network. However, this doesn't only mean sticking to employers and recruiters - it's a good idea to start networking with others students and fellow job-seekers. Not only will it help you feel less alone in your job search, but you could also uncover some extra opportunities or advice.
8. Ask for a contact card
During the fair, you're going to be talking to a fair number of people, and it can be difficult to keep track of everyone. That's why it's good practice to ask for a business card or some other means to keep in contact with each employer. This will let you go away and fully consider each opportunity and start building a relationship with the ones that are most related to your post-graduate career goals.
9. Take notes
In a similar way, taking notes at each booth is a great way to remember all the best bits. You can note down an organisation's vacancies, their values and any benefits they offer, as well as any contact information you're likely to use in the future. These notes can be as detailed or as sparse as you like and a really just a way for you to keep track of the day.
10. Say "thank you"
A little cliche, but sometimes a simple "thank you" can go a long way. Do your best to remember to thank the recruiter or company representative before you leave a booth, and be sure to also thank the organisers of the event if you get the chance. If you have a handful of employers that you really liked and want to stay in touch with, sending them a quick "thank you" email is a great way to get your foot in the door and maintain contact after the career fair ends.
Find more student and graduate advice, career tips, and free resources over at our advice hub.