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Like Speed-Dating for Job Seekers, Attending a Job Fair Connects You to Employers
A job fair, sometimes called a career fair or expo, is an event where employers and job seekers meet. Whether you’re in school, currently unemployed or looking to make a change from your current position, attending a job fair can open the door to opportunities that are right for you and your family.
Preparing for a Job Fair
Job fairs are open to a variety of employers and job seekers. Sometimes they target an industry, like health care, or cater to a specific population, such as military veterans. Find out about job fairs in your area by searching online and looking for ads in local papers. Talk with people at employment agencies, career counseling centers, government employment offices and human resource departments of industries in which you want to work. Sometimes you’ll see flyers posted at coffee shops, on employee bulletin boards, at community centers and on college campuses.
Once you’ve determined the employers you want to target at the job fair, write a resume that demonstrates the education, skills and experience that qualify you for a position. If you have several employers or job titles in mind, tailor a resume to each one. Print multiple copies of your resumes on high-quality white paper using a laser or digital printer.
Dressing for a Job Fair
Prospective employers make their initial evaluation of you based on your appearance. Make a good first impression by dressing as if you were attending a formal job interview. Business attire is expected, no matter which job you’re interested in, so don’t wear scrubs, for example, even if you’re talking to employers in the health care industry.
A conservative skirt or pants suit in a neutral color such as navy or gray will signal to recruiters that you’re a professional. Wear a simple blouse that does not expose skin below the collarbone. Keep jewelry to a minimum, with small earrings, a necklace and no more than one ring per hand, although both engagement and wedding rings are acceptable. Avoid jangling bracelets, facial jewelry and visible tattoos. Keep your hair styled simply and off your face. Wear flat or low-heeled shoes that have closed heels and toes.
If you take copies of your resume with you, store them in a good-quality portfolio or briefcase. Carry essentials such as your wallet, car keys and cellphone (muted) in your briefcase or a small purse.
Buy the best-quality clothing and accessories you can afford. If you’ve been out of the workforce for a while, you may need to update an outfit, especially if you’ve gained or lost enough weight to affect the fit. Clothing does not have to be expensive. Consignment and thrift shops often have items in nearly new condition, sometimes with the tags still on. Some communities have agencies that sell at low cost or lend business attire to women who’ve been chronically under- or unemployed.
Making a Good Impression
Greet recruiters with a friendly smile. Make eye contact and offer a firm handshake. Introduce yourself by name and briefly summarize what you have to offer. For example, you can say: “Good morning. I’m Emily Johnson, and I’ve recently finished training as a certified nursing assistant. I’m interested in finding a full-time position at a rehabilitation center.” Give recruiters time for an introduction and to tell you more about the organization they represent.
Sometimes, job fair attendees are hired on the spot, but usually, you’ll be asked to fill out an application. If the employer interests you, you can leave a copy of your resume and make it clear that you are open to an interview.
You may want to attend a job fair just to explore careers and get some ideas for future employment. That’s fine, but you should still dress as you would for a job interview. You never know who you’ll meet at a job fair or if you might cross paths with them again later. If someone remembers you several years down the road, you want to be sure it’s for the right reasons.
Online Job Fairs
Whether they’re called “online,” “virtual” or “electronic” job fairs, these 21st-century career events give you an opportunity to connect with potential employers from the comfort of home. Don’t take the “comfort” part literally, though. Because you will likely video-chat with recruiters, you want to present yourself just as professionally as if you’re attending a live event. That means you need to dress appropriately, have a resume ready to upload, and come prepared to discuss your qualifications. Remember to tidy your workspace. A desk scattered with papers or a messy bookshelf in the background makes a poor impression. Keep family members, including pets, out of your home office space. If you have young children, you may want to arrange for child care outside the home to be sure a crying baby or curious toddler does not interrupt an interview.
Virtual job fairs are often industry-specific, so find out about them through professional organizations, employers you plan to target and on online networks such as LinkedIn.
Denise Dayton is a a freelance writer who specializes in business, education and technology. She has written for eHow.com, Library Journal, The Searcher, Bureau of Education and Research, and corporate clients.