Why you should go to your autumn careers fair

14 Oct 2019,
By Unite Students, Staff writer at The Common Room

If going to a careers fair isn’t high on your priorities list right now, that’s understandable. After all, you’re years away from graduating - why should you spend time at a job show in year one, semester one? In this two minute read, I’ll tell you exactly why.

Here are five ways you’ll benefit from going to your autumn careers fair - plus four easy ways to prepare for it.

Understand the industry and the competition inside it

Who are the major players in the market? Who’s up and coming? Where are they based? What job roles exist in this industry? Which roles do graduates tend to be employed in?

You can ask all these questions at a careers fair. You’ll get a good understanding of the industry as a whole, which you can’t necessarily get from individual company websites.

Discover your job prospects within the industry

What do these employers look for when they hire graduates? What will it take for you to tick those boxes? Which companies offer placements or take on summer interns?

Knowing what’s expected of you is the first step to breaking into your chosen field. It lets you work out what you’ll need to achieve to become the candidate these firms are looking for.

Or, maybe you’ll realise this isn’t the industry for you. Maybe you’ll explore other exciting possibilities you hadn’t considered before. Either way, you’ll come away more knowledgeable than you went in, and that’s always a good outcome.

Network and practice your interview skills

Unfortunately, a careers fair is a bit like speed-dating. You get to spend a few 1-2-1 minutes with dozens of employers, finding out about them, and revealing the best bits about yourself.

Push yourself through any (very natural) nerves. Smile, speak to people, and tell them what you’re interested in. Hand over a CV. Take a free pen or stress ball after your chat.

You never know who’ll remember you, and where that might lead. If you get nothing else from it, it’s a great opportunity to get interview practice - and free stationery.

Listen to the talks, soak up the advice

As well as the employer stands in the main room, a typical careers fair also includes talks and workshops with industry leaders. This is another chance for them to convince you that their company is your preferred choice.

It’s also your chance to drain knowledge from them. Attend some talks, take notes, jot down anything that will help you prepare for work - either before the summer or over the next three years.

Speak to recent graduates

Companies who exhibit at these fairs are trying to impress you, and they know a great way to do that is to prove they’re serious about hiring and nurturing graduates.

So, manning the stands, you’ll find graduate employees waiting to tell you their stories. Ask them what they studied, what grades they got, what the application process was like, how much training they’re getting.

Basically, find out how to get in and what it’s like once you are. Don’t be shy, these people are here to answer these questions - and inquisitiveness is a trait to be proud of.

How to prepare for a careers fair

Wondering what to do in advance? Here are four simple ways to make the most of your careers fair with a bit of prep.

1) Find out who’ll be there
Check the exhibitors list at your university's website. Who do you want to speak to and what do you want to find out? Make a plan to use your time wisely.

2) Do some research
Check social media and the websites of companies you're interested in. Look for any recent news and updates, and read through the ‘about us’ section.

3) Update your CV
Have you done any recent projects, either on your own or in a team? Think about what you experienced for the first time, and what you learned. Get it on your CV, and print a bunch.

4) Choose an appropriate outfit
It could be that nobody in your chosen industry wears a shirt and tie, so do a little research before you choose your outfit. Just try to look clean, pressed and presentable.

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By Unite Students
Staff writer at The Common Room