Career Expos are one of the best ways to explore opportunities and set the stage for a rewarding career in the future. Since employers have made the time and effort to come and speak to YOU, the hardest part about connecting with employers (for example having to approach an employer from out of the blue) has already been done.
Whilst Career Expos offer you extremely valuable 1:1 time with potential employers in an informal setting, don’t mistake the informal setting for permission to be slack, inappropriately dressed and unprepared. To get the most out of the experience and make an impact, preparation is key. Employers want to meet proactive, interested and resourceful people. If you approach an employer with a keen and sincere interest in their organisation, they will take an interest in you. If it turns out that organisation is not the best fit for you, it is likely that they will still try to help you and may refer you to a colleague or another organisation more suited to your interests and skills.
• Do your homework – check out the list of exhibitors. Research these companies and prioritise the ones that hold the most interest for you. Be prepared to tell these people why you are interested in their organisation.
• Dress for success – OK, the environment is informal but appearances count. Lasting impressions are made in the first 30 seconds – that’s right! The first 30 seconds are critical. Whilst you don’t need to be in a suit, you should look neat and tidy, clothes clean, hair washed – looking confident.
• Practice your pitch – introduce yourself giving your name and what degree(s) and major(s) you are doing and when you plan to complete your studies. Tell them about some ideas you may have about career possibilities and what work experience you already have – this can be both paid and unpaid. Lastly, let them know what interests you about their organisation and why you’d like to learn more or, if you know that you would like to work for them, why you want to work for them. Keep it simple; be clear and concise.
• Relax and smile! Look the person in the eye when you introduce yourself and extend your hand giving a firm (but not crushing!) handshake. If you can’t manage to look interested and engaged you are wasting everyone’s time, including yours! Always be polite and courteous. These days success is heavily reliant on interpersonal skills. Having superior manners is more than just a courtesy – it’s good business.
• Search out the lesser-known employers. Take advantage of employers who may not be as busy, they would love for you to approach them! By going up to them you are likely to get more attention.
• Take advantage of down time. If you’re standing around waiting for the employer to come free, LISTEN! Listen to the questions that are being asked and to the responses. Use that knowledge to make your own approach more effective.
• Collecting business cards and follow up – it doesn’t all end at the Expo. Ask for a business card when you have finished your conversation and make sure you thank them for talking to you. The networking continues after the Expo. For those organisations you are interested in, follow up with an email thanking them for their time and advice. Take this opportunity to ask any other questions you may have, reiterate your interest in working for them and enquire as to how to best keep in touch. Also, check to see if the company is on LinkedIn and add them to your connections.
Good luck – enjoy the Expo! Remember…even if nothing concrete comes out of the Expo, you will still have practiced networking and communication skills which will enhance your employability in the long run and make you better prepared for your next encounter with a potential employer.