If you’re looking for a new job or if you want to start a postgraduate course visiting a Careers Fair is a step in the right direction. There are several good reasons for this.
Discovering current opportunities
Careers Fairs give you direct access to those who can offer jobs and courses. It is especially useful if you already have a clear idea of what you want to do. You get the opportunity to talk directly with representatives from the employer or course provider, which no other recruitment method offers. Recruiters usually have human resources professionals and recent recruits on their stands to give you a flavour of what it would be like to be employed by them. Careers Fairs allow you to compare and contrast a number of organisations directly, which is much more productive than just reading their web sites.
Careers Fairs are also extremely helpful for those who have yet to decide their future career path. Attending one of these events offers the chance to go window shopping for a wide range of different careers, gather useful information or plan future action. What goods or services does the organisation provide? What does the recruiter look for in their ideal candidate? What would you be doing if you joined them in a particular role? Do they provide professional training and will this lead to career progression in the future? Gathering information such as this is a vital step if you need to make progress towards a career decision.
There are many different kinds of Careers Fair so first look for the events that cover your interests before you think of attending.
A full, though not comprehensive list of future Careers Fairs, appears on the www.prospects.ac.uk web site. Some fairs are specialist events that cover specific areas of employment. Other events are more general and have many organisations with a large range of recruitment opportunities and course providers who are seeking new students.
Some fair organisers, such Venture Marketing who mount the National Graduate Recruitment Exhibitions at Birmingham and London and the Careers Group (London University), admit anyone. Others ask you to pre-book your attendance.
Specialist University Fairs
University Careers Services tend to organise events that relate to their own specific courses and may refuse entry to others. At University College London they have a wide repertoire of events, from those where you can meet investment banks through a ‘Law Fair’ and ‘IT and Technology Fair’, to one for employers of engineers. ‘We try to have a tighter focus at our fairs now than we did previously’, says Phil Howe their Events Manager. ‘Typically there are 35 to 40 employers at each event and admission is by ticket.’
For those interested in creative opportunities, Edinburgh College of Art provides fairs focussed on the media, retail and teaching opportunities, while the London School of Economics mounts several events covering careers in management consultancy, advertising and public relations and business and financial management.
Top tips for a productive visit
If you attend a Careers Fair how can you be sure to get the most out of the experience? Here are some key tips.
- Select your fair carefully to discover which organisations attending will be of real interest to you. Most Fair organisers place lists of exhibitors on their web sites when the day of the event draws near.
- Thoroughly research the employers that will be attending. Read their web sites, discover what you can about them and decide which ones you want to focus on. Make a shortlist of organisations you already know something about and visit their stands. If you arrive without any prior knowledge, there are so many exhibitors that it is difficult to know where to start. Most fair organisers print a programme giving exhibitors’ details.
- Be ready to express an interest in the areas of work on offer and know about the qualifications and training needed to succeed in that career.
- Prepare some good questions that demonstrate your interest in what the employers do and the area of their work where your skills and knowledge would be most likely to add value to their business. What skills and experience are they seeking in an ideal recruit? Which departments within the company are wanting new staff? Clarify the products and services they provide and ask about their competitors and customers. If there are some relatively new members of staff on their stand ask about their expeirence so far within the organisation and their aspirations for the future.
- Dress smartly if you’re there seeking a job. Make it easy for recruiters to imagine you in the roles they are hiring for.
- Avoid the busiest of times. It is always better to approach an employer’s stand when there are fewer interested people about. Early and late are often better than the central time of the event.
- Take an up-to-date CV with you to offer in case you are asked for one.
- Note the names of the people you met on each stand so that you can mention them in your cover letter when you send in an application.
- Check what events are included in the fair. Exhibitors sometimes give talks providing details of their organisation and what it offers. Many fairs give you the opportunity to have your CV checked by a professional careers consultant. Some provide workshops on key skills such as interviewing, how to succeed when attending assessment centres, teamwork and how to develop your presentation skills. These can often be so valuable that people go to Careers Fairs just to benefit from such events.
Make the most of Careers Fairs - they might lead to permanent employment or help you to make progress on the way there.