Making the Most of a Career Fair

April 21, 2014

Image of silhouettes holding briefcases behind the words "CAREER FAIR"Ahhh, career fairs. It seems they are a rite of passage in a career search. Career fairs are a good idea to research companies and network. Career fairs are a bad idea if you think you will walk away with a job (statistics show that less than 2% of attendees get a job directly from a job fair).

So, how do you navigate a career fair? Here are some tips:

1. Before going to the Career Fair:
* Develop a strategy to maximize your time at the event.
* Identify target organizations by reviewing the list of participating employers (for the upcoming Montgomery County Career Fair, that list can be found here).  If someone has a job posted that interests you, bring that job ad with you.
* Practice your elevator pitch – be ready to talk about your work experiences, skills and abilities.
* Prepare specific questions for each recruiter/organization.
* Review and revise your resume and print copies that you will have on hand the day of the fair.

2. When first arriving at the Career Fair:
* Make a name tag and place it on your right side, so that when you shake hands with recruiters, they can easily glance up your arm to your name tag.
* Review the employer list for any last-minute attendees.
* Take a deep breath, calm your nerves, and scan a map of the venue.  Pay special attention to your priority organizations. You will want to go to these first.

3. While meeting with the recruiter*:
* Note, we said recruiter. The staff at a career fair will not be a hiring manager. It will be someone from HR who is knowledgeable about the company. This is your time to see if this company fits your interests, and to gain more information about the hiring process at this particular organization.

* Make a positive first impression by remembering all the keys to successful interviewing including a firm handshake, warm smile, eye contact and a confident voice.
* If you have a job ad, bring it to their attention. See if you can gain any more information about how to position yourself.
* Take advantage of the opportunity to try to build a rapport with the recruiter, but don’t monopolize their time.
* Ask about the hiring process for the company but don’t ask questions about salaries, vacation time and other benefits.
* Get a business card (or at least contact information) from each recruiter.

4. After leaving the recruiter:
* Immediately jot down any notes on the back of his/her business card that will help you remember the conversation or key points to follow up on.
* Network with other job-seekers! Some of the attendees are your competition of course, but sharing information and resources can be quite beneficial.

5. After leaving the Career Fair:
* Follow up and thank each recruiter you spoke to at the fair.
* Organize your notes and contacts. Then, devise a timeline for making sure you sustain your new connections.
* Manage your expectations. A Career Fair can be a great way to get face to face with a company; however, like any networking activity, the payoff is not always immediately apparent, so
make sure you continue your other job searching activities.



Want Relief from the Heat? Step into a Career Fair

July 8, 2010

It has been so hot in CT this week, I have broken a sweat just walking from freezing, air-conditioned buildings, to my car. Yikes!

Clothes of the business womanIf you need a break from the heat, consider attending two upcoming job fairs, featuring jobs and internships in the Maryland/metro DC area. These two fairs take place over the next two weeks. Each focuses on a different level: one features entry-level jobs and internships, and the other focuses on more advanced positions. For more information on each, as well as tips on attending, see below.

Current undergraduate students, postbacs, graduate students, recent graduates, and professionals with less than five years of experience:

Public Service Career and Internship Fair

Who: Open to the public. Over 75 federal agencies with internships and positions available in a wide variety of fields will be attending the fair.

When: Wednesday, July 14 from 3:00-7:00 p.m.

Where: The National Building Museum! This venue is located at 401 F Street NW in Washington, D.C., across the street from the Judiciary Square metro station on the red line.

Cost: Free

Organizations attending: Visit this link.

Extras:Find and Apply” Workshops at the Career Fair: The Partnership for Public Service, the event sponsor, will be presenting three workshops on how to find and apply for government jobs and internships during the Career Fair at 4:00, 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. in the Pension Commissioner’s Suite on the second floor of the National Building Museum. You do not need to sign up ahead of time. However, these sessions will fill up quickly, so arrive ten minutes prior to the start of each presentation.

To register for the fair: Visit this link.

Postdoctoral Scholars:

Postdoc Conference and Career Fair: STEM Talent: A Symposium and Career Fair for Postdocs in the Capitol Region

Who: Open to current postdocs working in Washington, D.C.-area federal labs and universities. Companies, foundations, and federal agencies seeking to fill upper-level S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) positions will also be attending the fair.

When: Thursday, July 22 from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm

Where: Bethesda North Marriott/Montgomery County Conference Center, 5701 Marinelli Road, Rockville, MD  20852

Cost: $5.00

Organizations attending: Visit this link.

Extras: A full conference agenda, including a plenary speaker, panel discussions on different STEM careers, a career fair, and skills workshops, featuring OITE‘s own Dr. Lori Conlan!

To register for the conference and fair: Visit this link.

To prepare for either/both fairs, consider the following:

  1. Research, research, research!  Visit the links above, determine organizations of interest, and then visit their specific sites to view jobs and internships available. You need to be able to talk intelligently about what the agency/organization does and have a sense of what they’re recruiting for.
  2. Edit your resume, and share it with a career counselor at OITE before the fair, if you can. If not, at least have a colleague or family member review it for mistakes.
  3. Come up with an introductory “script,” including your name, research project or program of study, date of graduation (if applicable), and your area of interest and how it relates to the employer. Practice this with friends and family.
  4. On the day of the fair: dress appropriately (suits are fine, but not required), and be EARLY!
  5. Once at the fair, pick up a list and map of organizations, target three or four that you don’t want to miss, and plan your day.
  6. Be enthusiastic when talking with employers and demonstrate familiarity with their organization.
  7. Make eye contact!
  8. Drop off a resume with each employer of interest, but know that some will not collect them.
  9. Pick up a business card from every person you speak with.
  10. …and as my colleague in career services at Berkeley says, “Be brief, be bright, and be gone.”
  11. Send thank you notes via email within 24 hours of the event.

Good luck, and stay cool!