How to… make the most of a careers fair

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With a giant room packed full of different employers at stands and students bustling around them trying to grab as many free sweets and chocolates as possible, it’s no wonder that a careers fair can be daunting. But it doesn’t have to be.  Speaking to several students at the Autumn Careers Fair in the Great Hall last Wednesday, many of them felt a bit lost and were struggling get anything useful from the fair, which is a huge shame. The fair is an amazing chance to speak to employers directly, get your questions answered, make contacts and discover opportunities. From speaking to students, employers and staff at the Careers Network,  I have come up with a few tips to help you make the most out of the Careers Fair:

  1. Go. If you don’t go you’ll never know. If there’s nothing for you at the Careers Fair remember that there are careers fairs aimed at different subjects and interests, so check out other events that may be more relevant to your interests. https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/as/employability/careers/events/careers-fairs.aspx There are also college-specific events held by Careers Network that may cover your interests.  https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/as/employability/careers/events/college.aspx
  2. Research. The general census from employers and staff at Careers Network was that you will find the fair infinitely more useful if you look up which companies will be there in advance.  You can collect a fair guide from University Centre to get an overview of the exhibitors or check Career Network’s website https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/as/employability/careers/events/public/careers-fairs/business-finance-and-consultancy-fair.aspx .    Check out some of the exhibitors websites and see what interests you and what they offer, that way you can have more purposeful conversations with employers on the day.Image
  3. Interact. The best way to get any information is to ask lots of questions. And also tell them a bit about yourself, your interests and what you want to get out of a job/internship. That way you can have a really productive conversation that is tailored to you specifically rather than the general talk. If you’ve had a really good discussion with an employer don’t be scared to ask for their LinkedIn details or business card.
  4. Follow up. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could turn up to the Careers Fair, pick up a few leaflets, sign up to a couple a mailing lists, leave and then be done with it? Of course it would! However, that would make your time spent there completely wasteful. Make sure to follow up any contacts you made and really look into any opportunities that really grabbed you. Graduate jobs are very competitive and the general advice from most employers has been if you want to apply, do it as soon as possible. And don’t forget to use the Careers Network for help with CVs, applications, assessment centres and interviews.  https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/as/employability/careers/events/workshops.aspx

I hope these tips have made the idea of going to a careers fair less daunting rather than more. In fact, it should be an overall positive experience! You’re going to want a job that you enjoy so use this advice and be passionate and enthusiastic.

Happy job hunting!

Hannah

Student Employability Team – Careers Network

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About careersbham

Student Engagement Officer for Careers Network University of Birmingham

One thought on “How to… make the most of a careers fair

  1. Great post, Hannah – thanks for sharing! I’d like to offer one other piece of advice… “Don’t ignore the small guys”. Whenever I attend Careers Fairs, there are always plenty of crowds around the really big names. Lovely places to work, great to have on your CV, and usually great pay too. But competition for these places is very tough, and they represent less than 1% of employers in the UK.

    I would recommend instead, looking at where the crowds aren’t. Go to those employer stands – they will have more time to answer your questions, and will probably be more interested in you. The chances are that you’re more likely to work for an SME than one of the really big guys (99% vs 1%), and it pays to do your research.

    Finally, freebies are all very well, but do you really need another pen, memory stick, chocolate or notepad? It’s your career we’re talking about – time to be realistic about what really matters to you!

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