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How to have a rewarding career fair experience
TUESDAY, MARCH 26, 2013 10:34 AM

Spring is here, and for college students, that means career fair season has also arrived. Due to today's economic climate, many students are not sure whether or not they will have a job waiting for them in their field after they graduate. There are many steps they can take to increase their chances of landing the right position, from completing a career test to visiting their school's on-campus career center.

No matter what students do in their job search, they should make attending a career fair a priority. After all, where else will they find representatives from a large number of potential employers all under one roof? However, before students attend one of these events, they need to make sure they are ready to impress those they encounter and get as much as they can out of their experience. Here are a few ways in which they can do just that:

Know which companies will be in attendance
A successful career fair experience hinges on how well students are prepared. This is why Quintessential Careers advises individuals to find out which companies will have booths at the career fair. With this knowledge, students can research the employers they could see themselves working for and prepare a few questions. Ultimately, company representatives are more likely to remember individuals who have clearly done their research.

Come prepared
In addition to knowing which companies will be in attendance, students need to make sure they have everything they need to make a good impression. This includes a pen and paper to take notes on, a list of questions and, most important of all, enough copies of their resume to pass around. CareerBuilder suggests individuals bring at least 20 copies of their resume.

Look and act professional
Students may not have held too many jobs, but they need to realize that the company representatives they meet will be evaluating them - even during a quick conversation. This is why U.S. News & World Report recommends that job seekers show up at a career fair looking professional. That means that sweatshirt students wear every day to class should remain in their dorm room. A nice suit will always leave the right impression.

However, clothes are not everything. Company representatives want to meet confident students who are professional and ready to talk about themselves and their career aspirations. Businesses also want to hire employees with manners, so students should always give a firm handshake.

Make new connections
Students may not leave a career fair with a new job, but they can walk away with several new connections if they play their cards right. In fact, Quintessential Careers states that building a network with the recruiters present at the event is job seekers' "most vital" task. Beyond recruiters, however, students can talk to their fellow attendees and share advice with one another. They may also be able to meet representatives from professional organizations or employment agencies that can help find work long after the career fair ends.

Never forget to follow up
If students interacted with representatives from companies they have an interest in working for, they are going to want to follow up with a thank-you note or email. According to National Career Fairs' website, these messages should be brief, but show students' gratitude and continued interest in a position. If some time passes with no reply, students should send another follow-up message to learn about the status of the position and what additional steps they can take.

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