Hundreds of job fairs are hosted throughout the country every year. Whether a career fair is hosted by a university, an industry-specific group or other organization, it's important for job seekers and businesses to take advantage of the opportunities these events present.
Career fairs present a chance to practice interviewing skills, broaden the horizon of a job search and network with business leaders. Additionally, people who may feel they have reached the ceiling in their career can utilize a job fair to explore opportunities for a possible career change.
In the course of my career with Northwestern Mutual, I have discovered certain qualities that make candidates stand out at a career fair. The following tips will help job seekers demonstrate preparedness and interest in to potential employers.
• First impression – Be sure to dress appropriately and exude a professional, confident demeanor.
• Your story – Have a personal elevator speech so you can inform a potential employer, in 30 seconds or less, why you're the right fit for their company.
• Take a break - Don't be afraid to take a break to write down notes to help you remember people you've spoken with and companies you are interested in researching further.
• Reverse interview – Be prepared to ask specific questions about a company's industry, history or goals. Illustrating background knowledge of a company will highlight your ability to prepare.
• Follow-up – Be sure to gather business cards from those you meet and follow up with them after the event. It may be appropriate to send a thank you note or connect with them on LinkedIn.
It is just as important for businesses to prep before exhibiting at a career fair as it can provide an opportunity to reaffirm company goals and missions.
• Elevator speech – Exhibiting at a career fair provides the company an opportunity to refresh its elevator speech into a pitch that will engage and interest potential candidates.
• Candidates – Meeting job seekers in a relaxed atmosphere allows a more casual conversation about what a candidate is looking for and whether that fits in with company needs.
• Future prospects – It's possible to meet candidates that may be a good fit for future positions with the company.
• Community networking – Companies can use a job fair to meet other local businesses and network with fellow leaders.
In order to get the most out of a career fair, job seekers and businesses must take them seriously. In 2013, Northwestern Mutual utilized a variety of career fairs to meet potential candidates and help fulfill the company's largest recruitment goal ever. Job fairs enable businesses to seek out quality candidates and confirm company needs.
Juan Baron is a wealth management adviser and the managing director for Northwestern Mutual in West Los Angeles. Baron serves on the board of managers for the Westside Family YMCA and the board of directors for the Inland Empire Latino Lawyers Association Inc., a nonprofit provider of free legal services for the poor and underprivileged residents of the Inland Empire. Baron also is a certified financial planner, a chartered life underwriter and a chartered financial consultant. Northwestern Mutual is the marketing name for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Milwaukee, WI and its subsidiaries.
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