We’ve heard about job fairs from teachers, parents, friends, and especially the internet, but do we ever feel inspired to attend? Keep reading to find out why a job fair could change your career aspects and overall outlook on finding a job.
Embarking on a job search can be challenging, especially in today's online-dominated world. It's disheartening to think that your resume may go unnoticed due to a lack of personal interaction. There's always the risk of immediate rejection by applicant tracking software if your application fails to meet certain criteria, leaving employers unaware of your submission. In addition, without in-person contact, you are leaving it up to a piece of paper to communicate your qualifications, which is not always the best representation of your abilities.
Even when you're not actively seeking employment, attending a job fair can still prove to be a valuable use of your time. Here are 10 reasons why job fairs are essential for aspiring professionals at any stage of their current or future career.
- Receive feedback on your resume - Constructive criticism of a resume often comes first from a trusted friend, family member, school professor, etc. However, there's nothing quite as valuable as having an employer review your resume. While opinions from our trusted sources are important, what truly matters is how you present yourself to the companies you want to leave a lasting impression on. That's why a job fair can be so beneficial – it allows you to receive instant feedback from the most important source of all: the employer.
- Maximize your job search efforts - Searching the internet for job openings can be a job in and of itself! Not only do we have to wait for responses to our applications, but it can take even longer to get a reply to our "Are you hiring?" inquiries, and sometimes they don't even reach the right person. However, at a job fair, most employers participate because they are actively looking to hire. This means that it's not only a more efficient use of your time but also a faster way to meet people and make connections. Take the opportunity to introduce yourself to company representatives and ask about ways to increase your chances of getting noticed when applying. Some companies may even have applications available or accept resumes on the spot.
- Put a face to your application - You only get one chance at making a lasting first impression! By introducing yourself at a job fair before applying, you can make a personal connection first, which can go a long way. Your potential employer likely receives numerous applications every day. To ensure that yours stands out and doesn't get lost in a sea of submissions, take advantage of the job fair to make an impact on the employer. Whether by providing a physical copy of your resume or sending a follow-up email referring to your introduction at the job fair, make sure you leave a lasting impression.
- Meet company representatives who can speak to the company culture and advise you on the hiring process - Have you ever come across a promising job on a search engine, only to stumble upon negative reviews about the company from current or previous employees? These reviews can often be biased and may not even be relevant to the specific job, department, or location you are applying for. That's why it's important to make the most of your time at the job fair by engaging with employers directly. Take this opportunity to inquire about the job you are interested in. Ask them if they know someone in that position and how they got there. Additionally, find out more about the company's culture – what kind of goals, communication, and direction drive their organization?
- Build your confidence talking to employers - Have you ever drawn a blank during an interview, simply because you were intimidated by the interviewer? This happens more often than you might think! You can boost your confidence by preparing a 30-second elevator pitch and practicing it in front of employers at the job fair. In addition, take the opportunity to speak openly and honestly about your interest in their available job position(s). Treat your time at the job fair as if you are interviewing the companies you want to work for. Each company will have a table displaying their name, product/service, and general information about their organization. Make the most of this by using everything you see to come up with practical questions that will help you determine if the organization is truly worth your time and effort to apply.
- Increase your LinkedIn network - When was the last time you connected with someone on LinkedIn? Remember, LinkedIn is only as useful and engaging as you make it. Take the initiative at the job fair to inquire about employers' social media usage, particularly their activity on LinkedIn. Some organizations and professionals are more open to communication through LinkedIn than others. If you come across an employer who represents a company you're particularly interested in, ask them during the job fair if you can connect with them on LinkedIn. Note: Before doing so, ensure that your LinkedIn profile is polished and ready to be viewed by potential employers.
- Practice your interview skills - Get comfortable speaking with employers face to face. Job fairs have a more relaxed atmosphere where you can gather information without feeling the pressure. Make sure to maintain eye contact, actively listen, and take mental notes during your interactions with employers. These skills will greatly benefit you in future interviews. If the company representative you met at the job fair is also the interviewer, engage in a conversation about something interesting that came up during your chat. It doesn't have to be related to the job itself. For example, if you had a light-hearted conversation, you could ask them about their thoughts on the new movie they mentioned they were going to see, the new restaurant they wanted to try, or even how their dog is doing. Recall something you remember about the employer, and that will help them remember meeting you.
- Explore new industries and companies - Whether you have a specific job or field in mind, or are still undecided, attending job fairs can greatly expand your knowledge of career options. You might have your eye on a particular job, but there could be other positions within the same field that you were unaware of. Additionally, you might have the chance to connect with representatives from smaller companies that aren't actively utilizing job search engines but could be a perfect match for you.
- Get career advice from professionals in your industry - Embarking on a new career journey can seem daunting, just like making a career switch or reentering the workforce after a long break. Discussing your future aspirations with employers can be equally nerve-wracking. However, you may find that you have more in common with employers at job fairs than you realize. Not everyone you talk to will have followed the same career path they were on 15 years ago. Understanding where someone started and where they are now can be incredibly motivating and educational.
- Network your way into a job - Building connections with others is made simple, thanks to digital platforms like social media. However, it is especially beneficial if you can establish a face-to-face connection first. Merely attending a job fair, collecting a business card, and researching the employer later is not sufficient. Networking goes beyond just “friending” someone online. Make the effort to meet and converse with employers at the job fair, as this is a rare opportunity! Not only will this help you improve your communication skills, but it will also increase the likelihood of employers recommending you to their hiring departments.
Check out this article for more information on job fair benefits, and how to arrive prepared.
Two additional benefits worth mentioning, though they cannot be guaranteed in every case. Often, employers seeking entry-level hires or interns will engage in in-depth conversations with attendees, treating the job fair experience as an interview. This could potentially lead to immediate job offers! In other instances, the hiring process may be more extensive, and an initial meeting is part of that process. By attending a job fair and speaking directly with employers, you're taking that first step and gaining an advantage in the hiring process, getting ahead of potential competitors. Furthermore, there may be other job openings that you may not be aware of, but the employer might consider you for. Prior to attending the job fair, it's important to decide if you have a specific role in mind or if you are open to considering other available options. Check out this article to learn more about the job fair experience.
To sum it up, attending a job fair offers numerous benefits. However, what you gain from the experience depends on how well-prepared you are and having realistic expectations. It's important not to assume that you'll land a job immediately. Instead, consider it as an opportunity to make an impression by introducing yourself and expanding your professional network.