Whether the upcoming career fair is sponsored by a veteran's organization, a college or university, or another organization, you can make the most of it by following these 13 tips:
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1. Review the List of Companies in Attendance
The most important thing to do prior to attending a career fair is to find out what companies will be there. Then, you want to see if any are possible fits for you and your skills. You can usually obtain a list of career fair attendees by calling the organization sponsoring the fair or simply looking online.
2. Visit the Attending Companies' Websites and View Their Job Openings
If you look at the attending companies' job openings before attending the fair, you'll be way ahead of the game. While other attendees are scouting things out, you'll be able to impress potential employers by chatting about their missions, their products and services, and so on.
Also – don't forget when researching companies to make sure their values align with yours!
3. Update Your Resume and Cover Letter
You should have job-specific resumes and cover letters for each job you'd like to land. Having just one resume for every role is a lazy – and unfruitful – approach. Make sure to print paper copies for each representative of each company!
4. Apply Online for the Positions You Want
Even though you will meet company representatives in person to give them your resume, you will also want to apply for the position online. Applying online is a requirement for most companies, so why not get it out of the way now?
5. Follow Companies for Which You'd Like to Work on LinkedIn
This will show you have an interest in the company and have taken the time to learn more about it.
6. Connect With the Hiring Manager or Company Rep Attending the Job Fair on LinkedIn
This will show them your interest in the company is sincere. Plus, it will help you learn more about the people you'll be meeting at the career fair.
Networking is key to getting hired. I even recommend printing out copies of people's LinkedIn profiles so that you'll have the information handy when talking with them.
7. Review Your Wardrobe
Does your suit still fit? Are your shoes shined? You aren't going to get a job if you aren't dressed properly. Looking your best shows employers you mean business.
8. Get a Fresh Haircut
Take note of your hair. Could you use a cut? Does it need to be styled? You want to look neat and professional when you go to the career fair. An outdated hairstyle may cause the hiring manager to assume your skills are outdated, too.
9. Ensure You Have an Adequate Stock of Business Cards
It's easier to give out your contact information when you have it all on one card. A sticky note often ends up stuck on the bottom of someone's shoe or crushed in a bag! Don't let your contact information get lost.
Business cards are relatively inexpensive. Invest in quality card stock. Do not attempt to print them at home or order free cards from an online source! You do not want to appear cheap.
10. Practice Your Elevator Speech
Always be prepared to state your name and what you do. Know exactly how you will answer expected questions or reply to anticipated comments. Being unprepared makes you look unprofessional.
11. Practice Making Eye Contact and Shaking Hands
Averting your gaze shows you lack confidence, which is the opposite of how you want to appear during a meeting with a potential employer. A firm and steady handshake also projects confidence, whereas a shaky one shows fear or anxiety.
12. Update Your LinkedIn profile
If you don't have an account already, be sure to create one. If you do have an account, make sure it is up to date and the information matches your resume. If dates on LinkedIn and your resume do not match, employers may question your integrity.
13. Stock Up on Thank-You Notes to Send After the Fair
Be sure to follow-up on all of your meetings with potential employers. Doing so shows you are serious about wanting the job, plus it is polite and professional.
The thank-you note is your secret weapon. Several other people – if not hundreds of others – also talked to the same hiring managers you did. Your thank-you note will remind them of who you are and put you top of mind when they start thinking about the candidates they met.
Jaynine Howard is a military veteran whose work as a career strategist and reinvention specialist has been recognized by professional organizations throughout the nation.