Guest post: Kent student, Jennifer Ahrens – Getting the most out of careers fairs

Jennifer Ahrens is doing an MSc at Kent, and has been applying for graduate schemes. She will be sharing her experiences with us in a series of blog posts.

Getting the most out of career fairs

When I was looking for graduate positions, I attended three different career fairs. My experiences there were very varied, but one thing they all had in common: I felt that the most important thing was to come prepared! Otherwise, conversations can quickly turn awkward, and you don’t leave the best impression when approaching a firm and asking “So, what does your company do?”.

Here are my tips for getting the most out of career fairs:

1)      Research the companies

Before you go to the fair, have a look at which companies will be present and what positions they are offering. I also recommend making a list of companies that you definitely want to speak to, because it can sometimes be very crowded and you may have to wait your turn at the booths.

2)      Prepare some questions

Meeting with companies can be a lot more helpful if you have specific questions to ask. Not every company will have staff for all program streams, so be aware that you may not always get the answers right away. However, I made the experience that staff can be very helpful and offer to get back to you by e-mail, or even put you in touch with someone in the correct department. Great way to get a foot in the door!

Something I also recommend is trying to get a feel for the company through its representatives. Ask questions about their experiences and their backgrounds, to find out more about the company culture. A question I always like to ask is this: “Is there anything that surprised you about [company] after you started there? Something you didn’t anticipate, positive or negative?” This often catches people a bit off guard, but can lead to some very useful insights.

3)      Find out what else is offered

Many career fairs will also offer CV clinics or hold mock assessment centers or interviews. Be sure to check in advance if you can book a session beforehand or if it is done on a first-come first-serve basis. Often, lines for these can be very long, with wait times of multiple hours. So be prepared and come early, there is still plenty of time to speak to companies later in the day! Sometimes, there are also interesting talks running throughout the day, so make sure to check the program and write down the ones you’d like to attend. Again, this can also be an opportunity to connect with key people from organisations you may be interested in, so make the most of it!

Upcoming fairs: some career fairs coming up soon that you may like to check out.

Make sure to pre-register for quicker access on the day! There is always something going on, so be sure to check for career fairs in your area regularly.

Do you have any tips for other students? Use the comment section to share your experiences! Happy Job-Hunting!

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