Careers fairs are a helpful way to explore your career options in a casual environment. You get the chance to meet potential employers face to face and be introduced to a company first-hand. If you end up applying for an apprenticeship or job there, this experience is invaluable.
The downside is that they can be an overwhelming experience. There are lots of people to talk to and not a lot of time to fit it all in, which can make it feel less like a casual day and more like an important event where you are under pressure with time. It’s important to try and make the most out of the day, so you are giving yourself the best chance of finding an apprenticeship right for you. It is also important to stay calm and relaxed. It isn’t the end of the world if you don’t make the connections that you are hoping for in a single-day event.
Here at Employing an Apprentice, we have compiled a list of the best ways to utilise a careers fair so you can meet some great future employers.
Do Your Research
If you carry out some research before the event you can read up on some of the businesses attending. The host of the event, usually your school or university, will usually publish a list of all the employers taking part in the fair, so have a read through the information and decide which apprenticeships you are most interested in, and which companies you most want to meet.
Plan your visit with enough time to see each of these employers and approach these companies first. This way, you ensure you meet the businesses you are interested in and any extra time can be used for having a further look around.
Another tip is to make sure you are attending the right fair for you. There are sector-specific careers fairs throughout the academic year that focus on different areas of employment and have radically different attendees.
For example, there is no point in attending an apprenticeships fair for engineering if you know you want to work in journalism and the media. There are usually multiple fairs running throughout the academic year, so do your research early to discover the fairs most suited to you.
Plan Your Questions
After you have done some research about who will be at the fair, it’s a good idea to plan what questions you want to ask the employers. It can sometimes be hard to think of questions on the spot, and you don’t want to leave without any essential information.
You might want to write a few questions down and bring them with you, this way you don’t have to worry about forgetting what to ask and the employer will see you are keen and prepared. Examples of questions to ask include how much time you spend on the job compared to studying, or what your options are if you want to work part-time, or how your qualifications are assessed.
Don’t be surprised if you get asked some questions yourself. Take a look at the most frequent ones, and have an answer ready.
When you arrive at the fair, try not to hang back, and let other people ask all the questions. Employers like to meet people interested in their business, so try not to appear too shy and be sure to ask your questions. It is important to remember this is not an interview, it’s just a chance for you to find out what employers and opportunities are out there, so do what you can to make the most of it.
It can be hard for some young people to engage with employers at careers fairs and the like as they can sometimes feel like big and intimidating places. Employers will understand that the young people attending are not the finished article yet. Not everyone is brimming with confidence at your age and this is absolutely ok.
Good employers will take the time to engage with even the shyest attendees as they are also there to meet good employees and apprentices and are aware that this isn’t only defined by how confidently someone can ask them questions.
An excellent way to make a positive impression on the employer is to demonstrate your interest; if you think you will apply to their apprenticeship, tell them why you want to do so and what it was that captured your attention about what they have to offer.
Employers love to see students and future apprentices using their initiative and being proactive when exploring their potential career path. If you meet someone who made a big impression on you or gave some great advice, ask for their email or if you can arrange a meeting for more information.
This kind of action will help you stand out from the crowd and show employers you are serious about their business. It may also be beneficial to ask what else a company is doing for its recruitment drive. They may be hosting a talk that day or another event at your university next week; you might find something beneficial to your application.
The businesses are there to make contact with young people who look like they could be a good fit for their company and will appreciate that you proactively asked for contact details. They will likely either ask for yours in return or will ask you to email them to keep in touch.
Follow Up Your Contacts
This is something that is as important for potential apprentices as it is for businesses. If you are interested in becoming an apprentice with a company, follow up less than a week later with an email, reminding them that you met them at the careers fair and would like to be kept informed about their apprenticeship opportunities. Many people who feel that they didn’t get much from a careers fair have missed this vital step. This is the one thing above all others that will give you the best chance of success.