Career fairs: All you need to know
October 04, 2019
Career Fairs provide the opportunity to network with recruiters, employers and hiring managers from a variety of fields. You can get interviewed and even hired in organizations, ranging from start-ups to renowned companies.
Your University may call the event something slightly different, like CareersFest (Coventry University), or Careers and Internship Marketplace (University of Glasgow), or might go with the classic Careers Fair (SOAS, University of London or University of Aberdeen or Manchester University).
Whatever name they use to refer to the event, such recruitment fairs are a critical part of understanding the UK job market, especially for international students. The recruitment processes in the UK can be vastly different from that of your home country. The sooner you acquaint yourself with the process, the better. It can be overwhelming to navigate a career fair: there is a lot to see and do. To make the most out of the fair, here are a few things you should keep in mind:
These career fairs are typically held on university campuses, organised by the University’s career services throughout the year. You will find a number of such events being conducted during the autumn months because that’s the best time to start networking with the employers who will then open their vacancies for graduate schemes, part-time jobs, internships in October or November. (For application timelines, refer to our detailed blog here.)
Choose your sector
While most of these career fairs are general in their orientation, some events may focus on particular areas and/or fields. For example, a specific Law Fair may be organised to host recruiters in the legal field who visit and talk to you about their graduate and summer work opportunities. On similar lines, there could be Third Sector/NGO fairs specifically catering to those who want to work for a charitable organisation or in the development sector. Such fairs will apprise you of both the job opportunities as well as voluntary roles in the sector.
While many recruiters will be primarily hunting for final-year students who are ready to dive into the applications, you can still benefit from the fairs if you are in your sophomore year or so. Remember that as an international student, these fairs can be very crucial for getting an insight into the jobs market of the UK. You can get a head-start in your penultimate year of study when it comes to looking for options and finding work placements. You can also seek internship and part-time work opportunities as you study. This is all the more important for students who are not from the UK. Why? Not all jobs are available for an international student due to VISA restrictions. If you are a Masters student in the UK, this becomes all the more important, as you are really pressed for time. You have to make the best use of your one year and jump on every opportunity you get, right from day one.
Prepare in advance for the fair day
Before heading over to the fair, chalk out a strategy. Review the list of recruiter organisations and prioritise the ones you are really keen on. This does not mean you should ignore the lesser-known companies or start-ups, however. Preparation for the day will be incomplete without creating a CV and getting copies ready to be dropped with your recruiters of choice. In designing your CV, you might want to take some guidance from the Careers Services at your University. Often, recruitment fairs also have a CV clinic, so it is a good idea to get all CV in place for vetting. Some recruiters don’t accept CVs at the fair, so an offbeat alternative could be giving out your business cards, especially if you are in a semi-creative field.
Dress to impress
As classic as this advice is, business casuals never fail to make a good immediate impression. Prospective employers will see you in a professional light if you are smartly dressed. So ditch your sweatshirts for the day.
Arrive at the fair fully equipped
First of all, arrive at the fair early if you believe it will have a high footfall. This way you will avoid having to wait in queues and you can chat up with the recruiters while they are not weary yet. If you feel nervous about talking, your strategy should be to talk to a few low-stakes employers and then head over to the ones on your priority list. When you talk to them, show that you have researched the company and where you might fit in. Ask questions that reflect this research. Prepare a brief pitch about your knowledge, career aims and skills and blend them with the company’s work.
Finally, remember to bring in a handy notepad and pen for taking down important details. The information you acquire at the fair can help you write informed answers to your job application questions.
Follow up on your leads
It is a professional sin to skip this step, yet many of us commit this mistake. Your plan of action shouldn’t end at the physical fair. You now have a better idea of the companies that would be a good fit, so follow up on any contacts or business cards you picked up. A simple introduction could pave the way for work experience, an internship or a fulltime job.
When it comes to following up, do not hesitate to make use of social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn.
If you lay the groundwork, a careers fair could make all the difference in your professional progression. As an international student, you have to be doubly mindful of the complexities that arise in the job hunt, so make maximum use of such networking opportunities.