Career Fairs and Job Fairs are unique opportunities to expand your network with important contacts, investigate numerous organizations and career fields, and get exposed to valuable career advice from recruiting professionals. Whether you are a new freshman, graduating senior, graduate student, alumna, or community member, career fairs are precious experiences that increase your chances of a successful career. It is important to attend career fairs even if you are not graduating right away or are already secure in a career. The individuals that you will meet at a career fair can present opportunities and contacts to you for the future and can boost your current career by building essential relationships.
Believe it or not, there is a difference between a career fair and a job fair! While job fairs are typically designed to present open job opportunities within organizations explicitly to attendees, career fairs may have a different focus. Many career fairs, such as the Springfield Collegiate Career Fair which is held at UIS, are designed for networking purposes, occasionally resulting in the offer of an internship or job opportunity.
Networking image » What to Expect
» What to do Before
» What to do During
» What to do After
» Find a Career Fair
» Tools for Informational Interviewing
» Additional Resources
What to Expect
It is important to know what to expect at a career fair to ensure effectiveness of the event both for you and other attendees. Employers expect participants to be well prepared, professional, interactive and inquisitive. Participants should be prepared for the best and the worst possible outcomes, as to maintain a realistic, but optimistic, mindset. Each career fair has a different layout, theme, atmosphere, and expectation. Some career fairs may be extremely busy requiring a significant wait in line before talking with an employer. Other career fairs may be slow, allowing participants to take their time.
What to do Before
Being prepared for a career fair is one of the most important components to ensure a successful and productive event, both for participants and employers. Before you attend the event, consider the following:
- Be sure to research the event, employers, expected participants, and requirements to participate. The more you know, the better chance you have of a productive experience! Most career fair organizers create a website of participating employers and the event agenda.
- Target a list of employers that you are most interested in. Research these employers the most, but be sure not to limit yourself to certain opportunities that may exist or arise.
- Develop a “Career Fair Action Plan” with goals that you expect and desire to achieve at the event. Written goals are much more likely to be completed successfully.
- Prepare to both ask and answer questions! Have a list of individualized questions that you would like your target employers to address. Just as you may have questions for others, employers may have questions for you! Practice possible questions and your responses as much as necessary to feel confidently prepared.
- Create, practice and master a 30-60 second “elevator pitch” that markets your name, goals, education, experiences, strengths and interests. Be sure to partner the pitch with a firm handshake and a resume.
- Prepare about 10-25 well-developed resumes to the event. Make sure they have been critiqued thoroughly, are error free and are well written. Also be sure to know what is on your resume, employers may ask questions about it.
- Organize your career fair portfolio consisting of resumes, pens, paper, transcripts, and a list of references if an employer requests such information.
- Arrive early to the event! The longer the event goes on, the more tired employers may be. In order to ensure that the employer remembers you, arrive at the venue 10-15 minutes early and be ready to make a great first impression!
- Make sure you appear professional! Be sure to be professionally groomed and dressed in business attire.
What to do During
Remaining confident, professional, optimistic and persistent will create a positive attitude for participants to have a successful career fair. During the fair, be sure to:
- Introduce yourself. One of the most important aspects of your introduction to each employer is your name. Be sincere and enthusiastic to make sure the employer remembers who you are!
- Watch your time. Be sure that you are allowing yourself enough time to meet with your target organizations in order to effectively market yourself and your skills.
- Ask productive, relevant and individualized questions. Be respectful of the employer’s time and energy, but remain inquisitive to show you have done your research and that you actually care about your future.
- Get the employer’s information. Make sure to catch the employer’s name, business card, literature and the next step in communication. Don’t forget to thank them by name!
What to do After
Many times, the follow-up to a career fair can give participants the competitive edge over competition. Always be sure to:
- Send thank-you letters to the employers you spoke to within one week. Many employers only offer opportunities to individuals who send thank-you letters. This follow-up technique ensures the employer remembers you, strengthening the professional relationship you have built.
- Follow up with the employer’s requests and be consistent with their wishes of the next communication steps.
Find a Career Fair
Many career fairs are designed for a specific career field, industry, or population of participants. Popular specific career fairs include but are not limited to Nonprofit, Education, Healthcare, Women, Criminal Justice, Latino, and Overseas. Additionally, many employers will offer career fairs for openings solely within that specific organization. There are many website directories of career fairs by region, state, occupation, and industry.
See our Career Fair Calendar for Career/Job Fairs located within and around Illinois.
Unable to Attend a Career Fair or Want to Participate from a Distance? Contact the Career Development Center to further discuss your “Career Fair Plan” and to develop a strategy to market yourself from a distance
Tools for Career Fairs
Visual Aids and Video
- How to Work a Room (pdf)
- Handshaking 101 (pdf)
- Vault Guide to Career Fairs – (YouTube Video)
- CareerSpots – Career Fair Success Video
Audio – Podcasts
- First Impressions at Job Fairs Podcast
- Learn How to Network Like a Pro
- The Right Time to Network
- Networking for Women