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How can I get better at navigating career fairs?

As a shy person, I find it hard to get noticed at career fairs. What can I do to overcome this obstacle? #recruiting #personal-development #recruitment

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Mark’s Answer

I have worked a few career fairs over my career, and they are challenging. Often times people come in burst (crowds attract crowds), and it is hard to give everyone attention at the same time.


However, the person at the career fair is trying to see as many people as they can, and get you interested in their company. They wouldn't be at the career fair otherwise.


There are a few things I would recommend:



  1. Find a booth that isn't as busy, and strike up a conversation EVEN IF it isn't a company you are very interested in at the moment. It is boring to be idle as a company representative, and if you have no other candidates, it is nice to talk to someone local. :) Practice approaching and talking to the person. They are generally "people persons" and will be glad to help you practice.

  2. Have resume available to simply hand in to the busy booth. If there are a lot of people there, you won't get to talk to the booth representative, but normally every resume will be reviewed since that is the goal of the fair! Make sure you have your contact information on the resume so they can get back to you.

  3. Wait for a low period. You might stand over to the side for a while (10 minutes is a long to stand it seems like, but often is enough to let people "shuffle"), or skip that booth and come back to it.


If all else fails, approach the company you are interested in via another channel. The company's goal is to get the best candidates, and they will generally gladly accept resume's online or in person at an office (with online being the most common). You may have to navigate a web page to get to the available jobs, and so getting information about the company from the booth is a good idea. I have worked for several companies where one division was hiring and another was letting people go... so use the booth information to the identity of the groups that are hiring. :) It is rare that you "must be discovered at a booth" to get hired.


I would also recommend working on your shyness. You don't need to become something you are not (I find a lot of aggressive people annoying :) ), but you should be able to present yourself and your ideas in an effective way. You might join some student groups and activities and help with these. Learning to interact with people you don't know well is a good life skill. It is worth working a bit to become as good as you can at it. You might even get to a point where you enjoy it. :)


Best of luck, and hope you have a good fair!

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Jennifer’s Answer

Hi Carmen,
I think that it is key for you to start working on a specific plan to overcome this shyness since you acknoledge this, denial is more dangerous than facing something you already see as a "great to work on" are for yourself so, congratulations for that!
In my experience, many people will sign up to Virtual Career Fairs to make sure they have the chance to apply without having to expose themselves from scratch. If you have that chance, explore it!
All the best!
Jennifer.

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Kasia’s Answer

How about a virtual career fair? It gives you a fair chance to participate even if you are a shy person. Asking questions via chat might be less intimidating then doing this face to face.
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Barry’s Answer

Great question! I think it is really important to ask meaningful questions! Do your research. Know what the companies latest trends are, product releases ect. Before even walking in the door, make a game plan deciding which companies you want to visit. Have a well crafted talk track and practice it well (you can practice with your friends at school or eve the career services office). Be able to articulate who you are and where your passions lie. Also, at all costs do not ask "what kinds of positions do you have open"? This shows a lack of effort in many ways. Be engaging with the companies you meet. Follow them on social media. You have to demonstrate that you have done some leg work before meeting with them. Hope this helps!

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Behrad’s Answer

Hi Carmen, Great Question.

I would recommend doing your research ahead of time. If you know of the businesses who will be attending the career fair, take the time to research them in detail. This proactive mindset will catch the eye of anyone you meet with. I know that career fairs can often be daunting but just remember, we are all human! Don't be afraid to ask questions, you will be surprised how much of a positive impact one conversation can have on your confidence.

I would be more than happy to share some further coaching if it would be helpful :)
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Paul’s Answer

If possible research the companies that will be at the career fair before you attend. Pick your top 3-10 and write up questions you want to ask them. This could be about their product, their company, jobs and or internships, benefits etc. That way when you approach you know you will have something to talk about. Also from career fairs to interviews it is always nice to see someone who has done their research ahead of time!

If public speaking is the area that is tripping you up, you could look at joining something like toastmasters. http://toastmasters.org
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Jo’s Answer

Hi there,

In addition to the above I would like to mention that a lot of universities have been starting to offer alternative formulas from the classic career fair. Many do workshops, for which you can sign-up or just general company presentations you can sign-up for too! Another advantage is that you can better preselect the companies you are interested in.

If your university isn't doing this, I would make sure you follow companies you are interested in on LinkedIn! Many of them are organising specific virtual information sessions themselves now, in which you can just tune in as you like!

Cheers,


Jo
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John’s Answer

Carmen,


I have attended career fairs both as a hopeful employee and as an employer. The interactions that stand out to me are always the ones that come across as genuine. In your situation, you can be honest with the person at the booth. You can introduce yourself, and tell them that these events can be very overwhelming, but you are really interested in their company and would love the chance to interview in a setting that is less hectic. I would also advise having a strong resume to give out, as that is ultimately what counts in these situations.

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Sebastian’s Answer

Hi Carmen,
Some career fairs offer a scan-in function where you can leave your personal data, and interests, o even upload your LinkedIn or resume.
This could be a great way to get in touch in case you are not comfortable having a conversation yet. Otherwise, you can go with a friend and have them introduce you and start the conversation for you. Also, just say 'Hi' and I'm sure you will see that people are nice and will help you. :)
Best of luck with networking!
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Carolyn’s Answer

Hi Carmen! Networking at career fairs doesn't come naturally to me, either, so I definitely understand where you're coming from. However, there are some simple things that you can do to get better at it. Here's what worked for me:

1) Get warmed up before you talk to a company that you're really targeting. Choose a booth that isn't as busy, and practice your 30 second elevator pitch there, so you can practice before it counts. If you mess up, then it's inconsequential.

2) Be genuine. Don't pretend to be someone you're not--recruiters are people too! They've also been at the fair, standing for hours on end and speaking with jobseekers. Sometimes, a casual comment about the weather or maybe the job fair building helps to break the ice a lot, and make things more conversational.

3) Ask questions, and draw on your experiences. Whenever I went to a career fair, recruiters would always start out by asking, "What do you know about my company?" and I loved being able to talk about either reading about the company in the news, or even mentioning that I've studied the company in my classes. This made it much more natural to segue into my own experiences, so I could express my fit.

Hope this helps. I think you'll find that these career fairs get easier with more practice. Remember to take breaks, and remember that the recruiters are people too--don't be intimidated just because they're on the other side of the table!
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