We may have an idea of what we want to do when we finish university: what jobs we want to do, what companies we want to work for and where we want to work. Equally, we may not have even started thinking about career goals yet and figuring out how to get to these goals can be tricky.
Attending Career Fairs is a great way to start exploring options, making professional contacts and learning about the vast range of opportunities that are out there.
If you are unfamiliar with Careers Fairs, they are an open forum for industry companies to meet students and, crucially, future employees. They’re a great opportunity for you to talk to people who have experience in your chosen sector, letting you ask questions about how to get to where you want to go.
We have a number of school-specific Careers Fairs meaning you can plan to attend the ones that’ll be most valuable to you. However, be sure to think out of the box. The NHS will always have an HR department, engineering companies all need IT professionals and every company could do with a bit of marketing help every now and then. Therefore, keep an open mind about going to other schools’ Fairs.
So let’s take a look at some of the other benefits of attending a Careers Fair…
It’s an opportunity to ask the experts about practical steps for the future
With all these amazing companies in one place, you don’t want to spend your entire time making small talk (although a little wouldn’t hurt). If you’re unsure what to ask them:
- Think about what you want to get out of your future career
- Think about what you might have to do before reaching your future career
- Think about what you are unsure about in the industry
- Listen to some of the questions from other attendees and tailor them to yourself
Time with potential employers is premium, so make the most of it! Even if you only have a vague idea of what you want to ask, go with it.
Also, because the fairs can be a little overwhelming if it’s your first time, be sure to make a note of the answers you get back as well as the contact details of anyone you talk to. This way you can ask any follow-up questions you think of, as well as having a contact if you ever need one in the future. You can read our curated guide on how to prepare for Careers Fairs.
Learn how to be professional
Talking to industry professionals is a bit different from when you’re with your family or friends. Careers Fairs are a great way to learn how to be a little less dinner table and a little more conference table. Like anything the more you practice, the more comfortable you become. By asking the right questions, talking to industry contacts, and networking with fellow students you’ll get a better idea of what you should and shouldn’t say. Talking about yourself in this setting will seem a little awkward at first but with enough practice you’ll know exactly what to say when you’re applying for your dream job.
The first steps to building your network
This is a skill that can never be underestimated. It’s never too early to start networking with potential employers and your fellow students. Careers Fairs are a great way of building your network and can give you a ‘foot in the door’ in your sector, meaning that you have an established list of contacts that you can reach out to for work opportunities and advice. The earlier you start networking, the more confident you become.
Networking with your fellow students at Careers Fairs will also give you fresh perspectives and ideas that will help you forge your chosen career path, as well as giving you contacts that could help you with job opportunities down the line.
This professional skill can be daunting at first, but it’s invaluable. Virtual Careers Fairs are a great starting point to making lasting connections from the comfort of your desk.
Pro tip: think about contacting people you’ve spoken with on LinkedIn after the fair to thank them for any advice or to ask any follow-up questions you have.
Open your eyes to new professional possibilities
As we touched on the intro, Careers Fairs are not only a way to get clarity on your ideal career path; they can also open your eyes to new possibilities you had never considered before. You have the opportunity to gain insight into places you hadn’t looked before. Say, for example, you want to work in HR. Sure, every business has an HR department and this would mean that the Business School Career Fair would be for you, right? But what about the HR in the NHS? What about in an engineering firm or art gallery?
The key is to not limit yourself to one Careers Fair. Careers Fairs will broaden your mind to all of the amazing possibilities you can pursue. Who knows, you may even find inspiration in a completely new sector or line of work. Leave yourself open as this will ensure that you continue to develop your networking skills, build your professionalism, and have all those important questions answered.
Find out what Careers Fairs are happening by heading to the Careers webpage. You can also find information about the additional support you can get from Careers & Enterprise team while you’re there.