At SuperGrad, we always find great value in Graduate Careers Fairs. It gives us the opportunity to connect to people, rather than just looking at their CV on a computer screen.
In reality only a small fraction of graduates actually go to careers fairs. This is a real shame because not only are they hugely valuable to employers, they are even more valuable to the graduates themselves. So if you are thinking about going to a Careers Fair, but not fully committed to the idea, here are our top 8 reasons why you should definitely go to any Careers Fair you can find:
1. Explore career options beyond what you think you want. You’re a recent or future graduate so you will likely know very little about what it really means to have a career. You may think that you want to work in Marketing, but that’s way too vague and, if you haven’t spoken to anyone in the industry yet, you will have very little idea what this means in reality. Careers Fairs are the perfect place to have an open mind and explore lots of different options. Many of the graduates we meet think they want to do something very specific, but they haven’t really explored what’s out there for them and maybe their dream job is actually something they haven’t considered yet.
2. Ask recruiters / company representatives the things that aren’t on their website. This allows you to really get under the skin of a company, get closer to understanding what it would be like to actually work there. It’s of course advisable to have a couple of questions ready for any potential employers.
3. Get advice from people who actually hire people like you. Whilst university careers services are a great starting point, it can be much more valuable to get feedback directly from a potential employer. They can look at your CV, tell you what’s good and bad about it, and let you know why you are/aren’t a good fit for the company and so on.
4. Kickstart your critical thinking. If you meet someone from a company and you feel like it wouldn’t be a good fit for you, ask yourself “What is it that I don’t find interesting about this job opportunity?” The same thing goes for when you like something – why is it you would want to work there? By asking yourself these questions, it will be much easier for you to understand where you would thrive professionally.
5. Upskill for free. Most Graduate Fairs have free workshops and seminars. Usually there will be some form of CV clinic which can be hugely useful, delivered by companies that normally charge for their services. Seminars are also common, teaching you new skills, ways of thinking, or simply giving you greater insight into the job market. Tip – make sure you do a bit of research before you go there and decide what would be useful for you to attend – you don’t want to miss out just because you woke up half an hour too late.
6. Grab some free stuff! Most companies have some sort of incentive for you to stop at their stand – whether it’s sweets, free gadgets or competitions, you are unlikely to leave empty-handed. We always have quite cool prizes on our stand and our MD won an X-Box at the last event he went to, so make sure you get involved!
7. Get an action plan. You always leave a Graduate Careers Fair with a huge stack of brochures. Before you leave, take a couple of minutes to tidy everything up. Throw away those which aren’t of interest and agree on certain actions that you’ll take regarding the important ones. Tip – so that you keep up momentum, it’s usually best to take action within 24 hours.
8. Actually get a job! Well maybe not right there and then, but it shouldn’t be that surprising that sometimes the conversations that start at Careers Fairs actually do lead to job offers. As you never get a second chance to make a first impression, make sure you dress to impress. Act confidently, not arrogantly. A firm handshake, a smile and eye contact help to make a good first impression.
Of course, you can’t go to an interview in sneakers and without a CV and expect to get job offers. Here’s a few more tips you should definitely consider before going to a Graduate Careers Fair:
- Read the Fair brochure beforehand. You can always find it online before the grad fair, so that’s a perfect place to start. Don’t go in blind – read about the companies you want to meet, write down a couple of questions, look at their websites.
- Take copies of your CV. Most companies will ask for your CV if they are interested in your profile, so it’s not ideal if you don’t have a copy on you. Make sure it is up-to-date and relevant to the stands you are going to visit. Print out how many you think you will need plus a few spares and put them in a folder to keep them smart.
- Take some food and drinks with you. From our experience, the food at most Careers Fairs is overpriced and not that good, so you will probably end up not buying anything. This will work against you as you become hungry and dehydrated, losing your focus and energy so that you don’t make the most of the opportunity.
So there you have it. Careers Fairs should definitely be part of your gameplan for finding your first role. They help you to define what you want and what you are offering, and this will make you much more valuable to potential employers, taking you a couple of steps closer to securing your dream job!