The Summer careers fair takes place at the University of Warwick on May 8th. Whether you are a first year or a finalist you will know that this is an event you can and perhaps should attend. Indeed, you often see employer events and think ‘why should I, what is the point in attending?’
Well…there are many reasons to attend a careers event. You can use it to find out more about a company or organisation, get tips on application or interviews or some use this opportunity to research career options. Have you also thought of using it to network? Not sure what networking really means? Maybe you are a little intimidated by it or put off by the thought that it is all too corporate and big business. Yet networking is something all job sectors need and all professionals need to make connections to help create new projects and keep their work fresh. Whether you work for a law firm, business or are a freelance artist or writer, networking is a life skill. So why not use these top tips to help you to make the most of that event or fair?
- Have a Plan! Highlight the companies you want to speak to the most. You may not have much time so pick the companies that you most want to speak to and see them first. If one stand is busy go to your next choice and return later. If you do get to speak to the recruiter ask your questions and get their card and move on. They are here to speak to people not just one person so don’t monopolise all their time!
- Research the companies who will be there, see what they are offering and what they are looking for in a successful applicant. Then at the event you can ask questions and find out even more. The internet helps but the chance to ask questions will give you more information. When we talk to recruiters they are often impressed by such keenness. Alternatively it can be irritating to be asked “what do you do?” when a quick internet search can answer that. 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.
- When networking remember it is a conversation. This means you have to talk but also you have to listen! It is a conversation with a careers focus so reflect on what it is you want to know and learn. Active listening is an important skill so build on it, practising as much as you can. You cannot get an insight into an industry if you aren’t listening and just waiting to speak.
- Wondering what to ask? What would you like to know to help you to decide to apply to this company? What do you need to know to make a strong application? Examples could be: ‘Does this company allow its new recruits to sit in on business meeting early on in their career?’ ‘What further training can you do?’ ‘How did you develop your career at this company and why is it such a great organisation to work for?’
- Networking is about getting contacts who 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. This event is full of people wanting to network/chat with you. They have come to talk to you not be stared at so get chatting! And do not assume anything. If you see a company you haven’t heard of find out what they do and the various functions they need. Do not make assumptions that they aren’t interested in your discipline. Over 70% of graduate jobs advertised do not ask for a specific discipline subject; they are interested in your transferable skill set. So do not turn down a chance to meet people and find out the opportunities for you.
- Your image/brand = YOU. What you wear, your body language and the energy you demonstrate will leave an impression. It demonstrates you are taking this process seriously. Also it gives you the sense of being on a similar level to the person you are trying to impress, less the student talking the employer and more a potential employee. Make eye contact appropriately and adopt open, friendly body language – this translates as smiling occasionally and uncrossing your arms! You don’t need to take CVs as some companies will ask for application forms and it would be hard to tailor your CV to demonstrate your relevance to them and their roles.
- Follow up on contacts: If you are offered a business card take it and follow up as soon as you can with an email/telephone call thanking them for their conversation at the event (remind them of the location as they go to many events) and express your interest and motivation to work for their company. It is about continuing the dialogue, consider connecting with them on LinkedIn. 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 was telling you that they look for. If you subsequently make an application to a company tell them you have spoken to someone at the event in your covering letter. Explain what the conversation gave you in terms of insights into their organisation. Why? Well you are highlighting your motivation and understanding of what it is that they do.
Most of all enjoy the fair/workshop and use it to help yourself to the career that you want. University of Warwick students can find out more about the final careers fair of the year at Summer fair May 8th, 11-3.00pm
There is a wonderful African proverb: “If you want to go fast; go alone but if you want to go far; go with others”.