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VOL. 129 | NO. 46 | Friday, March 7, 2014

Angela Copeland

Making the Most of Career Fairs

By Angela Copeland

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As college graduates prepare to enter the working world in May, corporations begin to ramp up their hiring. More jobs are posted, and recruiters increase their search efforts. Even if you graduated from college years or decades ago, this can be a perfect time to look for a new opportunity.

One place big companies look for candidates is at career fairs. Some fairs are standalone events, while others are part of a larger conference. Typically, fairs have a theme. Two common themes are business and engineering. It’s important to note that the same big-name recruiters hiring at an engineering fair are often the same folks hiring for marketing and sales roles at other fairs.

Even if your career doesn’t fit the exact theme of the fair, give it a shot. National fairs in particular can be a great way to both look for jobs and practice your elevator pitch. There are a few tips to keep in mind before attending a fair.

First, dress appropriately. Wear a suit or dressed-up business casual attire. Hair should be neat, makeup simple, and shoes polished.

Update and bring many copies of your resume. And pack your business cards. If you don’t have cards, this is a great time to get them. Local office stores can often create simple ones in 24 hours. Consider bringing a small bag to neatly carry around any items recruiters may give you. Last, leave your jacket, purse and any other bulky or noisy item in your car to minimize distractions.

Look up which companies will be attending the fair in advance. If a map is available online, print it and highlight the employer booths you plan to visit. For your favorite companies, search online to find out about current openings.

Practice your elevator pitch. You want to quickly communicate who you are, what you do and the type of job you’re looking for.

The day of the fair, arrive early. Visit each booth on your list. Shake hands with each recruiter you meet, exchange business cards and give your elevator pitch. Be prepared to provide many printed copies of your resume. If you become engaged with a recruiter, ask if onsite interviews are available. Keep your cellphone turned on to vibrate, so you will be notified if a recruiter calls to ask you to visit their booth more than once.

After the fair, follow up with the recruiters you spoke to. Send them an e-mail to thank them for meeting with you, and attach a copy of your resume. Then, send a connection request via LinkedIn. Staying connected with recruiters will help you in the future as opportunities arise that were not available the day of the fair.

To locate career fairs in your area, visit the calendar section on websites for networking groups, the chamber of commerce, and large venues where career fairs might be held.

In Memphis, there are a number of career fairs within driving distance, including the NSBE fair March 27 and 28 in Nashville, and the Multicultural Career Fair on April 13 in Memphis.

Even if you don’t find your next career at a job fair, you will benefit from the opportunity to network and practice pitching yourself.

Angela Copeland is CEO/founder of Copeland Coaching, www.CopelandCoaching.com, and author of “Breaking The Rules & Getting The Job.” You can follow Copeland Coaching on Twitter (@CopelandCoach) and Facebook (Facebook.com/CopelandCoaching).

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