Not Sure How to Navigate a Career Fair? Get Answers Here.

Answer the following question with the first thing that comes to mind. “What will happen to me at the Hire UCLA Career and Internship Fair?” Don’t be surprised if your response boomerangs from “I’ll get a job offer on the spot” to “I’ll be completely ignored.” When we don’t know what to expect, we tend to imagine the extremes and feel the range of emotions that go along with them.

But somewhere in between delighted and deflated, there’s a more important attitude you should embrace. Be determined. Once you stop wondering what’s going to happen, you can start preparing for the experience you want.

We’ve answered your top five questions about the fair, so you can spend your time planning, not predicting.

Who’s going to be there?

Visit the fair’s website and look for the list of employers who will be attending. Then visit their websites. Look for general information about the organization: What do they do? Where are they located? After that, hop over to the careers page to check out any opportunities. Even if you’re not ready to apply for jobs, the careers page will help you figure out whether a role with this organization would be a good fit for your interests and skills.

Once you’ve done your research, make a list of the employers you want to meet. Rank them in order of preference. When you get to the fair, find out where each is located and try to stick to the plan you made for yourself. But keep an eye out for other employers that you may want to meet with on the spot. If something about a presentation or display piques your interest, it’s a good idea to learn more.

What am I going to say to them?

Keep in mind that the people you speak with at career fairs are most likely recruiters. They’re valuable contacts to make because they know a lot about their organizations and they play an important role in hiring decisions. But they may not be experts in your exact field. That’s useful to keep in mind when deciding how to introduce yourself.

As you prepare for the fair, practice introducing yourself with your elevator pitch. Your pitch should be short — under a minute — and convince the employer that you have a lot to offer the organization. Discuss your accomplishments and experiences; explain what you’ve learned from them and how you can apply those skills in your career; and talk about your long-term career objectives. Be prepared to answer a few questions and make sure you’ve got some questions ready, too.

In the next blog post, we’ll discuss in more detail how to speak with the employers you meet at the fair — and tell you which questions you should never ask.

What if they forget what I say?

If they’re doing their job right, the employers at the fair will have dozens, if not hundreds, of people stopping by their booths. They probably won’t remember everything you tell them about yourself. But luckily, you’re going to give them your resumé to remember you by. Your resumé should have many of the same keywords that you use in your elevator pitch and go into more detail about your experience and career goals.

Don’t forget to make plenty of copies of your resumé. Pick up a folder or case to tote them in (that will keep them crinkle-free), and make sure they’re easily accessible when you’re meeting with employers. If you have business cards, bring a stack of those with you and hand them out along with your resumé.

What if I forget what they say?

If you’re doing your job right, you’ll be stopping by many employers’ booths. By the end of the day, you may have a tough time recalling the details from each conversation. But a couple of tricks can help jog your memory.

First, make sure you take business cards from everyone you meet. Designate a specific folder or pocket of your bag to keep them in. When you get home, sort through them and make a list of names and contact information.

Second, take notes. Devise your note-taking strategy ahead of time. Try to find a way you can quickly take notes after every conversation. You could keep a small notebook in your bag to jot down details while they’re still fresh, or write directly on the business cards. You could even find a private spot and leave yourself a quick voice memo. If you can’t take notes during the fair, make sure you do so soon after.

What should I wear?

Use the occasion to take your professional clothes out for a test drive. Business attire is always appropriate for a career fair. That means no holes, no wrinkles, no jeans and no sneakers.

A note about shoes: Make sure they’re comfortable. Sneakers aren’t an option, but neither are stilettos. Polished, dressy flats can save you from hobbling out of the fair with blisters. If you buy new shoes for the fair, make sure you break them in ahead of time. You won’t meet anyone if you can’t walk from from one booth to the next.

For more tips and insights Sign up for our webinar April 10!

By Tina Jones
Tina Jones InsideTrack Career Coach Tina Jones