Here are some careers fair tips to help you make the most of your adventure. See tips on what to wear to a careers fair, what to bring, and how to get stuck into the atmosphere on the day!
What is a careers fair?
You can go to a careers fair if you're a student, graduate, or young jobseeker. It's an event where you can explore careers in a whole new way, getting involved in career workshops and exploring exhibits. You can attend CV doctor classes and talk to young people who are already doing your dream jobs and have loads of tips on how to get into the biz. Best of all, you can speak to all kinds of employers who can't wait to tell you more about what you could do if you joined them. The employers at careers fairs are nearly always very youth-friendly with all kinds of apprenticeships, graduate schemes and starter jobs on offer that could lead to a big, bright future!
So how can you prepare for a careers fair and make the most of your experience?
1. Decide who to go with.
You can go with other students and your teacher as part of a school group. You can visit a careers fair with your parents. If you're old enough to not need a parent or carer looking after you, you can head there with a friend or true-blue posse. If you're feeling brave, you can even go on your own. Sometimes, going solo to a careers fair is a great way to make the most of opportunities because you don't have anyone to hide behind or distract you from your career mission. Careers fairs are nearly always free to attend. Sometimes you have to register for a free ticket, but often you can just turn up. Be safe, but be prepare to go and have a great time!
2. What to wear to a careers fair?
It's a good question. "Smart casual" is always a good look at a careers fair. Be aware that people often form a first impression in the first few second they meet you. If you're a student on a school trip, there's no need to go the whole hog and wear a business suit. You do need to dress comfortably, too, because you'll be walking around all day - so leave those high heels at home.
Wear clean, unwrinkled clothes that aren't too revealing which you'd be happy to wear in a casual but professional office on your first day of an internship or work experience placement. That way you'll feel comfortable and look relaxed yet ready for a formal chat if that dream job opportunity really does turn up!
3. What to bring to a careers fair?
Here's a handy list:
- Waterproof bag where you can store all the leaflets and business cards you pick up
- Fully charged mobile phone and possibly a portable charger - you'll need your phone for travel arrangements, researching employers you like the sound of, and all kinds of little life surprises
- A pen and paper to make notes with. You'll forget all the tips and advice you were given, so have something to write them down with.
- Water. Hydrate and stay fed to keep your energy up over a long day. The big careers fairs often have eating areas, but it's best to be sure!
4. It's fine to feel anxious as a first-timer.
If you've never been to a careers fair before, you won't quite know what to expect. But there's always be a large crowd, so you won't be the centre of attention. And there'll always be quiet spots where you can recharge.
5. A careers fair is perfect if you have no idea what you want to do with your life.
You don't need to have an action plan all mapped out for your dream career to find a careers fair really useful! The whole point of a careers fair is to explore possibilities and open your eyes to new things. There are usually all kinds of local and national employers offering opportunities you never really thought about before, but sound exciting. So it's fine to be undecided about whether your next step should be university or an apprenticeship. It's totally fine to have a loose interest in a few different career ideas without pinning yourself down.
Just go, talk to people, see what they're offering, and explore what your future could look like!
Pick up all the leaflets and branded goodies you can see
Because time flies by so fast when you're having fun, you will come home from a careers fair without remembering all the people you talked to and what they said. You might also find that, say, you had a great chat with an employer, but didn't have the time to ask all the questions you wanted to.
Grab those leaflets and keep them. When you get home, you can go through the info at a more relaxed pace, and use the contact details or website link to find out a little bit more.
Employers often hand out branded freebies at careers fairs like squishy toys and pens. Those branded goodies will help remind you which employers you talked to!
6. Never judge an employer book by its cover.
Sometimes it's tempting to think you know all about what an employer has to offer. For instance, you might think Virgin just do planes and trains, or the BBC only wants newsreaders, or Transport for London is only looking for train drivers. Wrong! The biggest organisations have a huge range of career opportunities because there are so many people working in millions of different departments to make the company run smoothly. So a fashion store might need a techy materials technologist, or a transport company might need a social media guru. Be on your toes, keep an open mind and stay flexible!
7. Ask questions. Ask lots of questions.
Everyone who has a stall at a careers fair is very happy to talk, and would just love it if you walked up to them and introduced yourself and asked some questions. There's no such thing as a silly question at a careers fair. You're allowed to ask anything, so don't feel shy. Quite often, the stall will be managed by younger employees like apprentices and graduates who know what it's like to be in your position and have been in your shoes. Don't be shy - be curious.
8. Take your time and go round the careers fair more than once.
Careers fairs are often big, busy, and crowded. You'll never see everything there is to see the first time you go round. If you spot something interesting, swing back round for another visit. Make sure you've picked up alll the information leaflets on their stall, introduced yourself, and asked the questions you wanted to ask.
Sometimes it's only after you've already spent some time at a careers fair that you start thinking stalls are of more interest than you first thought. Maybe you got distracted by the fun workshops the first time round, but after you've tried the fun stuff you've realised to want to find out more about volunteering. Or maybe there was a huge queue for a stall you wanted to visit, but it's quietened down later on and you can spend more time there now.
9. Friends are great, but put yourself first.
You can see your friends or your fellow school student any time. A careers fair is a rare opportunity.
Do you feel silly seeming too curious or determined to find out more in front of your friends? That's understandable - you have a very different relationship beyond the walls of the careers fair. But here is where you have to take care of number one - and that's you.
If you're going with friends or other students, sometimes you'll feel less self-conscious if you re-visit a stall without them there, so that you don't feel silly about asking questions and being curious in front of them.
Don't feel held back by your friendship group if you want to spend more time at a stall they're not interested in. You can always arrange to meet at an obvious landmark later.
10. Network to the max
You don't have to be a city slicker to get networking. A careers fair is your chance to do it at any age. Put your best foot forward when chatting to employers on stalls. Smile, say hi, and introduce yourself. Ask them questions - help them to help you. And don't treat the careers fair as a purely offline experience - tap into the online social sphere too! Follow @employers you like on their Twitter handles so you can keep up with their tweets. Visit their websites to sign up for job alerts or opportunities for work experience placements. Offline, online... a careers fair is all about getting connected.
Now go have fun, and see you at one of these UK careers fairs in 2018!