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How useful are careers fairs?

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Careers fairs are in abundance at universities and exhibition centres across the UK, but often, it can be hard to see how they fit in to career planning – after all, what can you learn from a fair that you couldn’t learn from a company’s website? Wouldn’t you be better using that time to fill in another job application?

During my time at university, I attended a wide variety of careers fairs, with varying degrees of success, and eventually took up a position that I’d heard about through one of these events. There are plenty of tips and tricks to get the most out of careers fairs, and make the day work for you.

Is the role right for me?

Careers fairs offer job seekers a chance to meet face-to-face with employees from a wide variety of companies, and there are usually a mix of recruitment staff and people currently working on the advertised roles. You may be able to glean some information on how to make your application really stand out – speak to the recruitment staff and see what it is they’re looking for in an applicant. The answer to this will help you understand if you are right for the job – if the skill set they’re looking for doesn’t match up with yours, it may be best to look elsewhere.

The personal touch

Chatting with current employees can give you a good idea of the company culture – something that’s very important when you’re working, but that can be hard to understand from the outside. You can also ask most questions you have about the company and the role – whilst it’s a good idea to do a bit of background reading before going along, there are no expectations of you (unlike at an interview or assessment centre). Questions about salary, holiday and benefits can be a bit touchy when you’re being assessed, but at a careers fair, you’re the one doing the assessing, so fire away!

Think big (and small)

A list of attendees is usually available before the careers fairs, and chances are you won’t have heard of everyone. If you see some big names that you’re interested in, do some research and see what roles they have available so that you can prepare any questions before the day. However, don’t exclude those companies that you haven’t heard of before – small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can often give you more responsibility and better development as you’ll have more exposure to senior management. Check out a few of the SMEs attending – you might be surprised by what they have to offer. Plus, you’re likely to be speaking to people that you’ll be working with directly – if you’ve done some research, this can make a great first impression and may help your chances if you apply.

Don’t rule it out…

Doing research is all well and good, but make sure you take your time and explore all the stands available. There may be some things that are obviously wrong for you (if you aren’t a people-person, sales probably isn’t for you…) but some companies offer more than you may expect. If you know what sort of role you’re looking for, there’s no harm in stopping by a stall and asking if they have something that fits the bill. It could end up being your dream job! Even if it isn’t, you’ll probably still get a free pen out of it…

Careers fairs can be incredibly useful career planning tools if you know how to use them effectively – make sure to do some research, ask the right questions and take the opportunity to speak to everyone there. You never know who might give you the perfect offer.

How useful are careers fairs really? What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo: Romer Jed Medina / Flickr

I’m Helena, a 21 year old recent physics graduate from Warwick university. In September I’ll be starting as a project management graduate with Transport for London. I love cooking, video games and writing, and I’m looking forward to taking the first step in my professional career!
Helena MorettiHow useful are careers fairs?

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