So, you’re interested in attending an event in your sector – the one you’re passionate about! Now might be a good time to think about why you’re so interested in this occupational area? Are there any holes in your knowledge about possible careers for you? Do you have any idea about how to go about finding your dream job? Are there people it would be helpful to speak to? How are you going to work out who they are? Perhaps there’s a speaker that you want to hear to find out more about their research?
There are many careers events for you to attend both on and off campus. Why do recruiters want to come? It costs them – not just in entrance fees but more significantly in lost work time! Why do careers services and recruitment bodies invest resources and time to put the events on? The reason is simple – to help students meet employers and find out more about opportunities open to them. This is a great way for you to network with recruiters and organisations. It gives you the opportunity to collect information to help you select companies that you wish to apply to and (if you make the most of the opportunity) helps you to make strong and successful applications.
So, why should you attend?
There are many reasons to attend the fair. Firstly, you can research what companies are offering and what they are looking for in a successful applicant. Yes, you can research this information on the internet, but a fair will you get the chance to ask questions prompted by your internet research. Don’t be afraid to ask really specific questions. The person on the stand may not be able to answer you, but will note your keenness and should be able to arrange for someone else to give you the information. Often Warwick Alumni are on the stands and this is your chance to ask them about their experiences of applying for jobs. You can even ask them about how they got their jobs? How much easier does this make it for you to form a realistic and well informed decision about your future (careers speak for getting the right job for you)?
Secondly, you can network. This means that you can get contacts who also have contacts! Remember the expression ‘it’s not what you know but who you know?’ You may be on LinkedIn but how linked are you? Talking and networking are easier to do than you think. The fair is full of people wanting to network with you. Are you aware of all the opportunities that lie out there?
How can you make the most of the fair?
There are several steps to ensure that you get the most from the event.
Plan out your day and the stalls you want to visit. Do you know what companies do the type of work you’re interested in? You can check out their websites. What do you know about the sector you want to go into? Have you looked at Prospects? This is a great site to start looking at the sectors that interest you and find out more. There are other sites good for specific subject areas. For example, if you are looking for engineering or technology companies, then why not look at sites like Gradcracker?
You can make a really positive impression by dressing smartly or ‘dressing to impress’. You may wonder why you should bother to do this at a Careers Fair but it does demonstrate that you are taking the application process seriously. How will you feel as you wait to speak to a recruiter if you notice other students waiting in their suits? Would you feel uncomfortably out of place then? Wearing similar clothes to the recruiter might give your confidence a lift. They have probably dressed smartly to come onto campus, you might want to copy their examples.
Something else to consider – your body language. It’s great to make eye contact (appropriately not staring) and adopt open friendly body language. This translates as smiling occasionally and uncrossing your arms. Crossed arms can look uncomfortable and at times even defensive. You should also take your hands out of your pockets when you are chatting to the recruiters.
You probably won’t need to take copies of your CVs, most companies will ask for application forms. If you do take your CV, then make sure it’s good! Tailor it to the companies you are targeting and to the skills they are looking for. Demonstrate your relevance to them and their roles. If you have a business card you could take that or you can just ask for theirs!
What questions can you ask? Well what do you want to know? Here are some ideas:
“I am interested in working overseas and you have offices around the world. What are my chances of working for you in, say Dubai?
“What level of work experience would a successful candidate have to demonstrate?”
“What are the key skills you look for in this role aside from technical ability?”
“How soon would I be given direct client experience within your organisation?”
If you have made contact with an employer, then what should you do next? Follow it up! Did the person ask you to drop them a CV? Great, tweak your CV so it reflects all the important qualities and experiences the person told you that they look for. If you’re making an application, then make sure that you find space to tell them you have spoken to someone at this event and what the conversation gave you in terms of insights into their organisation. Why? Well, you’re highlighting your motivation and understanding of what it is that they do. Been given a business card? Great! Now you need to email that person and continue the dialogue or get connected on LinkedIn.
Most of all enjoy the fair and use it to help you to get closer to the career you want!