Most university careers departments will organise graduate fairs on campus and whilst students recognise these as a key opportunity to meet a wide range of companies in a relaxed environment, many aren’t making best use of these opportunities.
To start find out the companies that are attending the fair and which of those you think you might be interested in working for. Then research the company sectors for the latest developments or any announcements you can refer to when you meet recruiters – it’s much better to this in advance than ask organisations what they do as it shows genuine interest and that you’ve taken a pro-active approach to the graduate fair and their company.
Next think about the questions you should ask to help you understand if it is a company you would really like to work for, such as where the job will be based, what the career prospects are over a 2-3 year period or if there’s a graduate scheme which allows you to rotate through different departments. If there’s a recent university graduate on the stand ask them how they’ve found their first year in the company and what they think of their role – this will offer you a key insight into the company and what they look for in their employees.
Think also about what experience and skills you have that would be relevant to the company, this could be a work placement, volunteer work or a specific project from your time at university. Remember that all the other attendees will be in a similar situation to you, also studying for a degree, and you want to stand out from the others with what you say and make sure you’re not easily forgettable!
Of course appearance is also important, a recent post on RB’s Facebook page talked about the importance of first impression and what makes you different candidates, so make sure you are smart and presentable. And when you approach a stand be friendly and introduce yourself, this direct and confident approach will differentiate you from all the other students. Have an updated copy of your CV with you (if you need help with this our blog next week will be on how to write a CV so check back then!) with your contact details clearly displayed. And if you’re asked to complete an application form for the company find out the closing date and take it away so you can properly plan your response.
Graduate fairs really are a unique opportunity to meet a wide range of companies under one roof and something that no student should miss. Don’t expect to be offered a job on the spot but do expect to learn a lot more about the opportunities out there. And keep an open mind, they are an engaging way to learn about the world of work and different industries. So even if you think you’ve identified the industry you want to work in, a properly networked graduate fair could open your eye to new possibilities!