‘Tis the season to make the most of the opportunity to meet employers who are on campus for university careers fairs. So what can you expect and how can you make the most of a careers fair? If you’re an arts student looking for inspiration, should you bother?
My colleagues at Warwick give their reasons why students should attend a careers fair in this video.
So now let’s move on to how to get the most of a fair in a round up of …
Careers fairs – top tips
1. Read the careers fair guide / career fair app
You’ll be able to impress much more easily if you find out who is coming to a careers fair in advance, leaving yourself time to do research into organisations of interest.
If your university provides an online careers fair guide listing which recruiters are attending, read this. At Warwick we are using a careers fair app so students can identify who is going to be at a fair and can locate them on an interactive fair map on the day. Use a guide or app as a starting point for researching companies which appeal to you so you gain a good understanding of their business. Employers aren’t going to remember you for the right reasons if you approach them asking, ‘So, what do you do?’
2. Research your priority employers
Pick up to five employers which interest you and check out their websites and follow them on LinkedIn or other social media to find out what initiatives they are working on. Are they expanding into new areas or merging with a competitor? You’ll then find it easier to ask intelligent questions. On the day of the fair, if you’ve done your preparation you’ll have a better idea of which employers you want to make a bee-line for. Work out where the companies you want to speak to are located.
3. Dress appropriately
Whilst you don’t necessarily have to go for full business suit, rocking up in shorts and flip flops doesn’t make a good impression, so try to wear something smart.
4. Don’t monopolise an employer
If a fair or event is really busy, you may have to wait patiently to see a company representative. If you see others waiting to speak, don’t monopolise an employer. If you haven’t managed to ask all your questions, say that you’ll come back when they are less busy.
5. Make notes
Once you’ve had a good conversation with an employer, take yourself to a quiet space just outside the event and write down some notes so you can recall the conversation easily and make reference to this in your application/s.
6. Follow up with employers
If you are given a business card by an employer, do make sure that you send them an e-mail to thank them for their time. Employers have told me that they are surprised by how many students fail to follow up, despite them giving cards to them and encouraging them to make contact. For more top tips read our earlier posts The Do’s and Don’ts of a Careers Fair
and How to prepare for a careers fair.
Arts students – give fairs a chance!
Warwick students – you might be surprised if you check out our careers fair app and filter by your degree subject to see which employers are interested you. Over the years I’ve often encountered arts and humanities students exiting the Autumn careers fair saying ‘There’s nothing for me here!’ I’ve entered into long conversations with disappointed students explaining why broadcasting companies and publishers are able to recruit talent without coming to fairs.
Yes it’s true that as a general rule careers fairs don’t attract employers from the creative industries, charities and cultural sectors but this doesn’t mean that you should necessarily dismiss considering the options on offer. If you’re still trying to find career direction, then fairs can be a great way to see what’s out there and find out more about areas of work you may not have considered before. Many companies offering graduate positions will have vacancies which are not related to their specialism. Large finance companies, FMCGs (Fast Moving Consumer Goods companies), and employers in the utilities and energy sectors still need graduates for HR, marketing and PR. If you are keen to use your writing skills developed through a humanities degree, there could be a strong fit with marketing and communications.
If however, your heart is really set on an option which isn’t represented at a careers fair, then check out other events your university is offering for you to understand more about how recruitment works in that sector and see our earlier post on Understanding the hidden job market. At Warwick, we offer a whole programme of sector specific events where we invite employers and alumni to share their career stories.