5 ways to make the most of careers fairs

Rachel Swain, Editorial manager
April, 2021

Careers fairs give you the chance to speak to a number of employers at the same time. To make the most of this unique opportunity you'll need to make sure you're prepared

Traditionally during the autumn you would have headed down to your university campus for these events, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic fairs have been held online. It's unclear how long this will last but it is thought that many careers fairs will become a mix of online and in person.

While the platform may vary, the idea behind them remains the same. In general they're aimed at final-year students who are ready to start filling out applications, but it can also give first and second-years a head start on looking into their options, or finding work placements.

Some careers fairs are general, while others focus on particular areas of employment such as law, engineering and business. To see what’s available, search for open days and events.

'Preparation prior to a careers fair allows you to be your best self without worrying about who you are going to meet and what you are going to say,' explains Emma Evans employability consultant, School of Management, Swansea University.

Here are five ways you can make the most of these graduate recruitment events.

Do your research

As a starting point Andrew Stainton, employability hub manager at the University of Sheffield suggests, 'looking at the list of employers attending and highlighting those that you want to make contact with.' But even if you have a 'hit list' of companies you're interested in, don't discount those less well-known and not typically associated with your sector of interest; they might be offering just what you're looking for.

It's also worth digging a little deeper and Emma recommends researching the individual companies that are attending, as this will allow the conversation to flow more naturally and help you build a rapport. 'How do they fit into the sectors you wish to work in? What current news or information have you recently read about that company? Why do you want to work for them?'

Get the basics sorted

While you don't need to be in formal business attire you're still meeting potential employers so looking smart and being organised definitely helps make a good impression.

In addition to how you look think about how you behave. Someone who is positive and engaging will be well received by employers. Emma says, 'While it isn't always easy to be out of your comfort zone meeting new people you'll make a better impression if you are full of enthusiasm even if you find it isn't the company or role for you, that person is still a future business contact.'

These events generally last for a few hours and to ensure you get a worthwhile amount of time with each employer you'll want to miss the crowds. To do this Andrew suggests avoiding lunchtime as it's normally the busiest. 'Go at the start or the end of the day when it tends to be quieter and you should have more one-to-one time with the employer. Don't go too late as your target employer may be in a rush to leave,' says Andrew.

Sort your online presence

If you're attending a virtual event all the same advice still applies, you'll just have additional things to consider such as ensuring your technology is working properly. Andrew recommends that, 'if you are in a room with an employer ensure your camera is on and your background is either faded out or looks tidy.'

Depending on the platform you will need to create a personal profile that gives employers some information before you meet them. This differs from physical events where they don't know anything about you until your approach. With this in mind Emma advises you to take your time and think about the impression you want to give in your profile.

Stay focused

One of the main benefits of a virtual careers fair is how accessible they are as, you can log on from home and work around lectures and other commitments.

This does however come with a warning not to be too complacent and Emma points out that you need to be in the right frame of mind. 'It can be easy to be too relaxed when we attend virtual events and get distracted by mobile phones, TV and Netflix but this is your opportunity to build your knowledge about different sectors, employers and companies so make the most of it.'

Alongside this because everything is virtual there are no physical queues, which doesn't mean you don't need patience, as you may still have to wait your turn to speak to an employer.

Follow up after the event

'If you've had a good conversation with an employer and you have their name, you can connect with them on LinkedIn and thank them for their help or drop them an email,' suggests Andrew. If the employer suggested you do something (such as send them your CV) ensure you do this promptly. Make notes on any tips or advice you received and most importantly take action - start those applications or make a note in your calendar of when they open.

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