By Anna Colebourne, Placements Advisor
Careers fairs are not all the same. Large graduate fairs give general advice on a range of topics such as:
• Postgraduate study
• Gap year options
• Career advice
There are also sector specific careers fairs you can visit to gain knowledge on a particular industry. The Careers and Business Relations department at Regent’s University also run several employer and industry focused events throughout the academic year – keep an eye out on our events page on Blackboard.
Careers Fairs – the pros and cons
What are the pros?
• It can be a great way to network and find out useful insider information that can help you with your application and make you stand out from the crowd. However, you need to ask the right questions! You get the opportunity to ask recruiters directly what their organisation is looking for.
• Companies may bring along material created specifically for that event which is not available elsewhere.
• Job fairs are sometimes combined with other events such as a speaker or seminar series. If you are looking for new ideas, these talks can be very helpful and interesting.
• If you do find a useful contact at the fair, ensuring that you follow up with them is a great way to leave your mark in their mind. This person can potentially help you get that great internship or job you’re looking for.
• Careers and graduate fairs are usually free to attend.
What are the cons?
• You have to decide whether the employers attending the careers fair are the ones you are interested in and whether this is an efficient use of your time.
• In order for this to happen, beforehand you will have had to research the companies you are interested in, prepared a list of intelligent questions to ask prospective employers, dressed professionally, printed out several copies your CV to give out and spent time and money travelling. Phew! But without this, your time can be spent at home researching and networking with firms you really want to work for.
• Most job fairs are not industry specific so you may have to weed through a lot of stuff that may not be relevant to you.
• It is hard to stand out in these large crowds and be memorable when a single overwhelmed company rep is meeting over a hundred hopeful graduates a day.
• Some recruiters attending are simply giving you a quick speech about their company and telling you to apply online which really defeats the purpose as this information is already available online.
• Some companies aren’t even in the position to hire – they just attend to create brand awareness for their organisation.
What are the alternatives?
Obviously careers fairs are not the only way to get a job. Specific industries, such as consulting and finance, run taster days and insight days where you can visit the company, learn about them and have a chance to practice your skills as well as receive feedback.
Other options include attending networking events run by professionals within your industry, using the internet and social media sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter or writing speculative letters to companies. Remember, the Careers and Business Relations department are here to help you research relevant opportunities, write high quality applications and practice your interview technique.
In summary, careers fairs are just one option. The trick is to try a variety of strategies and you will hopefully land that ideal internship or graduate job soon.
To have a look at different types and sizes of graduate fairs coming up this year, click here.