Career fairs, as a subset of networking, have never been a strong suit of mine either. They feel forced, artificial, like everyone’s going through the motions. That said, they aren’t a bad thing to go to just to get a sense of what is out there. The career services office at Tufts University gives some pointers on getting the most out of a career fair and not looking like an idiot while you’re there:
Myth: I’ll look like a buffoon if I don’t come with my resume, cover letter, portfolio and salary requirements in hand.
Fact: While it is a good idea to bring along your resume, it is certainly not necessary. Some students go into the Career Fair hoping to land a job. Others go just to ask questions and see what’s out there. Either route is fine. Employers realize that everyone is coming in with a different level of preparedness, eagerness, etc. They are happy to talk with you (and some even have cool little giveaways…just saying). At the very least, be sure to grab the business card of everyone you talk to. That way, you can research the company later on and get back in touch with them should you feel inclined to either apply for a job or request an informational interview.
Myth: There’s no point in going to the Career Fair. Getting a job right out of college is not for me. I’m Eurotripping to find myself, man.
Fact: Going to the Career Fair does not mean you’re obligated to apply for a job. As mentioned before, students come in with various intentions. Some want a job, some want to ask questions, some just want to experience what a Career Fair is like. The Fair is what you make of it. When it comes down to it, why not go? It’s a chance to hone your conversational skills, make valuable connections, and practice wearing the slightly uncomfortable business attire that will soon become your everyday look (PJ bottoms don’t usually cut it in the workplace). Just go in with an open mind…you may be surprised at what you find.