Are you currently unemployed or planning to switch careers?

Attending a job fair is a step in the right direction.

What is a job or career fair? It is a business event organized by various career, employer or educational groups that try and match employers with prospective candidates. Employers have the chance to promote their companies while job seekers have the opportunity to connect with a target employer, learn about a new career and hopefully land their dream job.

Some job fairs are specific to an industry such as travel & hospitality, health care and financial. Other career fairs are large national events and cover all industries including non-profit organizations and volunteer opportunities. To attend any kind of job fair without preparation is a big mistake that everyone should avoid.

Here are the best characteristics a true job warrior must have to be a successful job fair participant:

Dress for Success

Employers will look for the employee that will be a good fit and will represent their company well. Even if appearance is not everything, it does count.

  • Business Attire  - This is a serious business event and definitely merits the business attire. You could get an interview or two, so put your best foot forward. Men usually come in a coat and tie. Women can wear a business suit or business casual. Forget the loud party outfits and wrinkled wear. If you must wear cologne, tone it down. Prepare and fit your clothes the night before to avoid any wardrobe malfunctions.
  • Think Comfort - Job fairs are usually held in large convention spaces. Expect a lot of walking and possibly waiting in long lines. If there is a coat check, avail of it instead of carrying a heavy coat all day long. Wear comfortable shoes. Now is not the time to break in your brand new heels! Women can slip in the foldable flat shoes in their handbags for emergencies. Otherwise, keep your feet happy in clean, polished and comfy shoes. 
  • Good Hygiene - Present a clean and fresh appearance. Employers will meet many possible candidates and you don’t want to be remembered as the unkempt, dishevelled applicant. Remember you are selling the most important product: yourself! Bring breath mints or gum for that possible interview.

Mental Confidence

Not only do you need to be dressed sharply, you must be intellectually sharp too. Prepare your mind and show the employers why you should be on their team.

  • Strategic Planning - If the job fair has a website, read it ahead of time. Decide which seminars, career services or presentations you want to attend. Find out if you need to pre-register for the seminars. Make a list of your target employers then learn more about them by doing research. Knowledge is power.  If there is a map or floor plan, study it and plan your itinerary. Schedule the seminar or most popular booth early and avoid the line up. After meeting all your selected employers, take some time to “shop” around too. There may be other employers you missed putting on your list.
  • Practice self-promotion - Your goal is to stand out and get hired amidst a multitude of people all wanting the same thing. Prepare a brief introduction of yourself, your career goals and why you want to work for that company or in that industry. Practice aloud repeatedly so it will come out naturally. Sell yourself with confidence. 
  • Anticipate a job interview - An opportunity may arise that you land a job interview on the spot. Research tips on how ace a job interview. Write down some examples of your strengths and weaknesses, and again, practice aloud in front of a mirror or with a friend.
  • Think Positive - Attend the job fair with confidence in yourself. Sleep early and have a good breakfast in preparation for your big day.

Professional Suave

You may be the best-dressed and intellectual, but do you have what it takes to do the job?

  • Perfect Resume - Update your résumé and bring 25-30 pieces with you, depending on the type of job fair you will attend. Check for spelling and grammar errors. Save a copy of your résumé in a USB if you need to print more copies and a nearby printing service is available. 
  • Business cards, paper and pen - When meeting your contacts, ask for a copy of their business cards. A good tip is to write the date you met them and any quick reminder of your meeting. It will help add a personal touch when you send them a follow-up e-mail of call after the job fair. Bring a pen and preferably a small notebook to take down notes. 
  • Manners and Etiquette - Know your business manners and etiquette. Speak in a clear voice and do not interrupt the speaker. Always answer in a polite and pleasant voice. Be honest and ask intelligent questions avoiding questions on salary, if possible. When waiting in line, do not push and shove to get ahead. 
  • Follow-up - It is good practice to send a thank you and or follow-up to the contact that you met. Here is where the short notes you made come in handy to add a bit of personal touch to your message.  There may not be a job for you now but an opportunity may come in the future.

Social Prowess

Although a job fair is a business event, it is also a social opportunity to interact with other people. Bring your smile and friendly attitude.

  • Network - Take the time to meet other people and make friends. For example, chat to the person next to you while waiting in line. They might know something you don’t like another job fair or a good website lead. Smile and be kind to everyone. They might become your co-employee or boss at your next job! 
  • Get Your Bearings - Know the correct address and how to get to the job fair ahead of time. Arrive early for registration.  Remember to locate the washroom (or toilet) and emergency exits. If you plan to stay for the day, find out where you can get a meal or snack. 
  • Have Fun - If refreshments are provided, partake with wisdom. You want to avoid your future employer having a wrong impression of you. Enjoy the freebies like bags, pens, paper pads, and other souvenirs being given away but don’t grab and overload on them. 

Good luck and happy hunting!