By Caroline Potter, Yahoo! HotJobs
Merely showing up to a job fair isn't going to help you net the job of your dreams. You've got to know how to work a career fair for all its worth to get legitimate leads that yield results. Use these tips from Shawn Graham, associate director of the MBA Career Management Center at the University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler Business School, to see a return whenever you invest time at a career fair.
Know Before You Go
Don't go to a career fair with the intention of hitting every exhibitor. Some career fairs have hundreds of booths, which is too much ground for one person to cover. Instead, says Graham, "Job seekers should identify and research [who you'll] want to speak with at the fair." Having what Graham refers to as "target organizations" will help attendees know how many resumes to bring as well as come up with questions to ask each company's representatives, he says.
Keep It Short and Sweet
The best time to perfect your elevator pitch is prior to the job fair. Why? "Typically, job seekers will have about two to three minutes to spend talking to recruiters," Graham says. Develop your brief pitch, which should summarize your interest in the organization along with your skills and relevant experience, Graham says.
Just Say No to Swag
It's OK to accept a piece or two of swag, as promotional items are often called, particularly if a recruiter or company representative gives them to you. "Grabbing a handful of freebies teeters on appearing unprofessional and greedy," Graham says. You want to look as though you are a potential employee rather than a "trick-or-treater, carting a bag of goodies from table to table," advises Graham, also the author of Courting Your Career.
Pick a Card, Every Card
Every conversation you have should end with a request for each recruiter's business card. Business cards are vital tools as they give you each individual's contact information, including the proper spelling of everyone's name and title. This will prevent you from making careless errors in future communications. "If a recruiter doesn't give you his or her business card, check with the career center to see whether the recruiter's contact information is already on file," Graham says.
Contact Your New Contacts
Now that you've connected with recruiters, make sure you put their contact information to good use. Reach out to each within a few days of the career fair. Whatever method you use to reach out, it's important to reference the meeting at the fair, Graham says. If you have notes that you took during the fair, use them to "remind [you] of key points to address in [your] follow up as well," Graham adds.