Usually advertisements for job fairs are straight forward–bring copies of your resume and wear business attire.
That phrase is open to so many translations, any student’s head would spin. How many copies of your resume should you bring? What do you mean by business attire–does that mean a suit and tie or a polo and slacks? Is my resume too general or should it be specific for each potential employer? All the questions posed are very valid and are probably asked after reading almost any job fair ad, including many more.
Here are the basics you need to prep before entering into any job fair.
- Be clean.
- Be professional.
- Be prepared.
- Be confident.
I know being clean seems like a given, however there are certain cleanly details that are easily overlooked from a student’s eyes that may be detrimental to those of an employer. If your hair is shaggy, get a haircut. Did you shower this morning and just throw your hair in a pony tail? Take down the hair and dry and style it. Make sure your clothes don’t have tiny stains on them–even if you don’t mind that teeny spot of pasta sauce on your lapel, someone else might. Then look at your nails. You don’t necessarily need a manicure, but cutting someone with a hangnail during a handshake may not leave a grand first impression.
Being professional is easier said than done. Every employer you meet at a job fair is going to offer different levels of professionalism. It’s very easy to be professional to the employer in a suit and tie and clearly wants to get right down to business. The ones you have to watch out for are the employers in jeans and a t-shirt and a laid-back demeanor. Just because they are at ease doesn’t mean that you should be. No matter the attitude of the person behind the desk, you have to treat them with respect and as an authority figure, never an equal. Also, as a solid reminder, being professional also means that you should look professional. Wear a suit, wear a solid-colored top, preferably a button-down, for gentleman wear a tie, and above all do not wear white socks with black shoes. And women, wear hose and pumps. It may be boot season but save those for your skinny jeans.
Preparation is much better overdone than underdone. If you feel like you only need 10 copies of your resume, bring 20. Bring a pen and notepad for questions and answers. Bring Kleenex if you are having allergy issues that day. No matter what your situation, make sure you are prepped for three other situations with necessary reinforcements right in your briefcase. And keep in mind that being prepared, besides having your necessary paperwork, also means that you are prepared mentally for what you are walking into. Job fairs are overwhelming and daunting. Know what companies will be there and do some research on all of them. If you walk up to the table knowing a recent news bit on that company, you will stand out instantly versus those around you. Also, when it comes to an average of 20 mini-interviews in one day, have a speech. Pretend that you are really interviewing for each job and be prepared with some questions to ask and some answers that you know will be asked of you. And role play. Grab a friend and write down some highs and lows of your delivery and content. It may seem embarrassing, but it may give you that extra push of preparation and confidence that set you apart.
And speaking of confidence, we all know that the sweaty palm situation is one most welcomely avoided. Start with the basics: get a good night’s sleep, eat a decent breakfast but not too big to make you feel lethargic, and remember that no matter what happens, you will come out of this event with the knowledge and experience of what the job market is looking for, and maybe even a job. If you exercise, maybe wake up early and go for a quick jog, or do some yoga poses. One very helpful pre-event action is before you go to bed, keep a notepad next to you and if you think of something you need to remember or do the next day, write it down. You will feel a lot more at ease and will have more likelihood of having a sound sleep. Finally, when you are at the job fair and sitting across from someone who may be a future colleague or boss, remember that you did not come to them–they came to you. At the end of that job fair, they are looking to hire someone. And that someone may just be you.