‘Work the room’ – getting ahead of the game at Careers Fairs

Nothing more clearly illustrates Mahatma Gandhi’s saying ‘the future depends on what we do in the present’ than using the autumn Careers Fairs to kick-start your future career prospects.

The Fairs

In the autumn term 2013, Careers Network will be running 4 major Careers Fairs: a two day general fair for all types employer on 16th & 17th October; a Business, Finance and Consultancy on 23rd October; a Science, Engineering and Technology Fair on 6th November; and a Law Fair on 20th November.


How to use them

If you want to avoid becoming part of the unemployment statistics when you leave Uni, use the autumn Careers Fairs as your ‘one stop shop’ for networking, not just for getting information.

What not to do

  • Wander round asking employers who they are and what they do (always guaranteed not to impress)
  • Walk round without talking to anyone just to see who’s there
  • With your mates just because they’re going so you think maybe you should too
  • Wander around the stalls  eating a jacket potato and picking up as many free pens as possible (yes, I have seen this happen and it does not go down well)

If you want it to be a complete waste of time you can do these, but I don’t recommend it. I’ve spoken to employers after they’ve been through exactly those experiences and they’ve told me they get thoroughly fed up of approaches like that, which suggests they get them a lot.

Before the fair

Rule number one when it comes to impressing any employer: do your research before you go. Careers Network publishes the brochure online in advance, or you can collect a hardcopy from the main office; so you can read their profiles, decide which companies you want to target and research them online before you go.


Good questions to ask

  • What areas they offer jobs to final year students and graduates
  • What internships/placements they provide to earlier year students
  • What the company’s looking for in graduate applications?
  • What do you enjoy about your job with the company?
  • How has the economy affected your business?
  • Where’s the business going in the short and long-term?
  • Know what you have to offer
  • Think about the main points that you’d want an organisation to know about you – it can help you feel more confident.


At the fair

  • Dress to impress and behave professionally: you’ll be far more memorable – not many people do, so you will stand out – in a good way.
  • Arrive early before they get too busy to spend time with you! Again they are more likely to remember you.
  • At the fair, each exhibiting organisation has a stand and their reps are there to answer your questions: they are sometimes reps from HR, sometimes new graduates working for the company, but always approachable and friendly, so don’t be afraid to go and talk to them!
  • Wherever possible, try to talk to someone on the stand instead of just picking up a brochure. Use the opportunity to ask your questions face-to-face.
  • Ask for people’s names/ business card, and make a point soon afterwards of noting on it anything that it would be useful to remember. Have they suggested you email them with further questions? Did they give you advice on their recruitment process? Advice like this is invaluable.
  • If you’re feeling a bit nervous about approaching your first choice organisation, it can be a good idea to visit some other stands first to practise your technique.  Why not visit the Careers Network stand, they will be happy to help and will give you a few tips to break the ice.
  • Don’t exclude small and medium sized businesses from consideration – you can progress more quickly and gain a breadth of skills you may not get the chance to gain in a larger organisation.


Other hints and tips

Remember that many opportunities are available to students of any discipline.

If you want to have a CV ready to hand over, or don’t know what to do or where to start, make sure you visit Careers Network for help before the Careers Fair or to ask for some CV feedback.

Avoid walking round the fair with a group of friends. The exhibitor may not realise that you are interested in them, and you could miss out because your friend happens to be more talkative than you.

Most importantly of all, make sure you attend because you never know what opportunities you might miss.


About careersbham

Student Engagement Officer for Careers Network University of Birmingham

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