If you have been out of work for awhile, it’s likely that you have been or will be attending a job fair or career event. Or, if you are a college student seeking an internship opportunity or are ready for your first ‘real job,’ you will definitely be attending a career fair. These events can be overwhelming or intimidating, especially if you aren’t prepared. Follow the tips below to ensure you are professional, prepared, and ready for that job opportunity.

Tip #1 – Dress professionally. We have all heard the saying that people shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. However, first impressions are critical to your future career success. If you don’t appear to be professional and ‘put together,’ a potential employer may disqualify you immediately. So, be sure to wear professional attire, walk and sit up straight, and build your confidence. Don’t make any excuses for appearing to be your best self. If you are short on money to build a professional wardrobe, borrow clothes from someone or visit your local thrift store—you would be amazed at the bargains that can be utilized to create professional attire.

Tip #2 – Be prepared. Bring hard copies of your resume with you on the day of the event. And, carry them in a nice portfolio. If a company is interested in you as a candidate, you will want to leave them with a document that describes your job history and contains your contact information. Bring more than enough copies – you can always take the extra copies home with you.

Tip #3 – Conduct research. The career fair will most likely feature a variety of employers from your area. You may be interested in some of them and others may not interest you at all. Research the companies that interest you and find out as much as you can ahead of time. This can cut down on the awkwardness of randomly stopping at a table or booth and not having anything to discuss. Instead, mention that you saw they recently earned an award, have a new product offering, or are expanding their current location. Don’t try to research all of the companies – just focus on the 5-10 that peak your interest.

Tip #4 – Practice your elevator pitch. Most employers are going to ask you about yourself. Be prepared with your 30-60 second bio. Don’t discuss personal issues; rather, stay focused on your educational background or professional history. Remember that it is all about THEM – how are you going to help them in the daily functions of their business and why should they even consider you? If you are nervous doing this, practice with a trusted colleague or friend before the event.

Tip #5 – Follow up. After you prepare for the event, attend the career fair, and make those connections – then what? Don’t let all of that work go to waste. Follow up with your new connections, sending an email or a thank you card. If you can get your name in front of the potential employer again, it’s just one more ‘touch’ on your way to a new job opportunity. And, even if it doesn’t work out right now, something may become available in the future.

If you are ready to move forward with your career search and just don’t know where to start, please contact me today – my passion is helping you reach your career goals!