When you’re seeking new professional opportunities, a job fair may be a great place to network.
Check out the sponsor. Communities, employers, educational institutions, professional associations and government entities may all sponsor job fairs. Be wary of job fairs that charge a fee, and understand what services you will receive for your investment.
Exercise Due Diligence. Learn as much about the companies are attending the event as you can. Use Hoovers Research and LinkedIn, among other online research tools. Cross check the list of companies attending on Indeed.com to learn what jobs they are currently advertising, and read job descriptions closely to determine what skills, education, and other qualifications they are seeking. If you know WHO will represent the organization, check out profiles on LinkedIn, too.
Gather Your Tools:
Bring plenty of business cards.
Update your resume or curriculum vitae, and bring multiple copies with you. (A copy on your smart phone will enable you to share via email or text.)
Note your creature comforts: Plan your wardrobe to enhance your professional presence including comfortable shoes! Dress in layers to easily adjust to too-warm or too-cold exhibit halls. Pack some protein bars or other healthy snacks, and a water bottle for longer events.
Paper and pen, preferably in a professional business folder, are essential.
Practice Your 30-Second Commercial. Can you deliver a concise description of your relevant background to potential employers? (Check out REA’s Pinterest Board for tips.) Also, prepare key questions to ASK company representatives.
Arrive EARLY and Review Provided Materials. Catch representatives at these open-house-style events while they’re still fresh and energized. At slow events representatives may leave before the event is over, so late arrivals might miss them entirely.
Check in at the registration desk. Gather printed materials detailing the opportunities available and ask if there’s an online component. Some groups also use Twitter and Facebook to provide event updates. Check your account and follow relevant participants.
Get the Lay of the Land. Target organizations that seem well-aligned with your goals. Identify the event locations for those organizations in which you are interested.
Practice your pitch with an organization that may not be of highest interest to you (but aligns with your goals) before initiating contact with your top choices. Be considerate of the representative’s time, particularly if you note that others are waiting to speak with him or her.
Take Notes and Follow Up! Exchange business cards and jot notes on the back of each that will help you to recall specifics about the organization, opportunity, and other contacts.
Ask about next steps, then follow up! Send thank you notes quickly and professionally, including forwarding your resume and completing any online application processes that were referenced in your meeting. If you feel it is appropriate request a connection on LinkedIn as you build your network.
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