Earlier this year, the Bayat Foundation was proud to be one of the sponsors of the second successful “Bright Futures Jobs Fair.” This career fair seeks to bring together Afghan university graduates with leading Afghan businesses. The event was held at the Bayat Media Center in Kabul and supported by Bright Futures Afghanistan (a consortium of Afghan non-profit organizations including the Bayat Foundation, Cordaid, the 1% Club, and the Hamika Baramaki Organization for the Rule of Law).
The Bright Futures Jobs Fair helped to connect more than 100 young Afghans seeking to enter the job market with leading Afghan executives across a broad range of industries. By the end of the event, a significant number of the attendees had received employment offers.
As the Bright Futures Jobs Fair demonstrates, career fairs can be an excellent way to make new connections and find new opportunities. They can also seem somewhat overwhelming if you’ve never attended one before. Fortunately, a little preparation can go a long way in helping you get what you want out of your career fair experience. Read on for some simple tips on how to make the most of these useful events.
Before the Career Fair
Do your homework. Preparing in advance of the career fair is an absolute must if you want to make the most of the day. Normally, the event organizers will make a list available of all the companies and employers who will be participating in the fair.
Study this list carefully, make a shortlist of the companies you’re most interested in, and do some basic research on each company’s history, current activities, hiring practices, and open positions. This helps ensure that you won’t waste time at the career fair talking to employers you’re not interested in. You’ll also be able to make a favorable impression on employers you are interested in by demonstrating knowledge about their company.
Practice your pitch. Employers often meet with hundreds of candidates over the course of a career fair. This means that you have very little time to make a good impression. Make the most of the time you do have by preparing and practicing a pitch about yourself. You should be able to deliver key information about your education, previous work experience, skills and strengths, and future goals in a short, engaging speech.
Get your supplies ready. You’ll want to bring plenty of copies of your resume to a career fair as well as business cards (if you have them). Make sure that your name and contact information is clear and easy to find on anything that you hand over to a potential employer. Don’t forget about practical supplies, like pens and paper or a smartphone for taking notes, and water and snacks to keep your energy up throughout the day.
On the Day of the Career Fair
Be punctual. Career fairs are very popular events and line-ups just to get in the door can be long, so make sure you arrive in good time. The earlier you are, the better your chances of getting to talk to your preferred employers first.
Dress for success. “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have” is excellent advice if you’re planning to attend a career fair. Business casual attire that is neat and professional is usually the best wardrobe choice. If you’re unsure about the dress code, it’s a good idea to dress more conservatively. It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed, but make sure that the clothing and footwear you choose is also comfortable enough to get you through a long day of being on your feet.
Ask (the right) questions. Asking questions is a must when speaking with a potential employer. However, it’s important that you know the right questions to ask. Don’t simply ask what positions the company is hiring for. Not only is this information easily found online, but questions like this aren’t useful for sparking a more engaged conversation and don’t usually leave an employer with the best impression of you.
Instead, focus on questions that highlight the homework you’ve done on the company and demonstrate your genuine interest in working there. Asking the employer for more information on a new company initiative you learned about during your research, or what they consider to be a key characteristic for success at the company, are good examples of the kind of questions you want to focus on.
After the Career Fair
Follow up with a thank-you. It’s good practice to send a thank you message to each employer who spoke with you within one to two days of the career fair, even if you’ve decided you aren’t interested in working for their company.
Thank you notes or e-mails can be short, but they should be personalized. Generic or mass messages are worse than no thank-you at all. And do be sure to include your contact information, as well as any additional details or information they make have asked you about during your conversation at the career fair.