Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Green Job Search Tip of the Week: Making the Most of Career Fairs

Green Collar Blog is pleased to introduce a new feature "Green Job Search Tip of the Week."  This feature is designed to provide job seekers with practical tips and suggestions for your job search.
This week's tip is "Making the Most of Career Fairs."
Background: With the growth in the green economy there are an increasing number of career fairs that focus exclusively on green jobs.  These events generally have names such as "green job fair" or "environmental career fair."  While a number of these events are produced by colleges and universities there are some that are open to the public.  Green Collar Blog maintains a calendar of green job fairs and other events relevant to job seekers.
Below are 10 tips for job seekers who are planning to attend a job fair.  These tips are also intended to be applicable to general interest job fairs as well as green-specific events.
  1. Prepare.  Preparation is the most important step to get the most out of a career fair.  Before you attend the career fair, review the list of participating organizations and positions they are currently recruiting for (for an example, see this post). Based on this information, prepare a list of the organizations at the fair that you want to speak with. You can then research these organizations in advance of the event and come prepared with questions to ask and talking points for how you'd be a good fit for their current opportunities.
  2. Make your first impression a good one.  One way to think about pairticpating in a career fair is that it is your initial interview with an organization.  As such, you should take steps to make your first impression a positive one. Such steps include dressing appropriately and smiling.
  3. Bring your resume. While not every organization you speak with at a career fair will be accepting paper resumes, some will, so plan to bring some copies.
  4. Don't come too early or too late.  When planning your schedule for attending a career fair, don't arrive too early (some employers may be late and will not have arrived) and don't arrive too late (some employers may leave before the official end of the program or may be tired by the end of the fair).
  5. Step up to the table.  In many instances, employers will not solicit job seekers as they are walking past various tables and booths.  Instead, you should approach the table or booth and introduce yourself to the employer representative.
  6. Listen. When you stop by an employer's table the employer representative may already be speaking with career fair participants.  If you listen while you are waiting, you may learn information that could be helpful for when it is your turn to speak to the representative (see next tip).
  7. Have questions, answers, and icebreakers.  Once you step up to the table you may want to have a couple of questions ready as icebreakers such as: "How has the day been going?" or "What types of jobs do you have available?"  You should also come prepared with answers to questions you may be asked such as "What brought you to today's event?" or "What types of jobs are you looking for?"  Where possible, highlight relevant aspects of your background or qualifications (for example, if an employer mentions that they are looking for a solar sales representative, you could mention your prior sales experience).
  8. Obtain follow-up information.  If you are interested in following up with the employer, be sure to obtain contact information for the employer represenative you are speaking with (and anyone else that the representative indicates you should follow-up with) before you leave the employer's table.
  9. Follow-up.  After the event, send a thank-you e-mail or conduct other follow-up as appropriate based on the information you obtained.
  10. Relax.  Career fairs can be stressful for some people, but keep in mind that these events are designed to bring job seekers and employers together.  Employers attend these events to meet potential candidates, so they generally will be happy to speak with you. Hopefully the tips listed above will help you relax and make the most of the event.  Good luck!

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