Careers fairs are one of the most significant types of event held on university campuses each year, with many employers and hundreds of students in attendance. While face-to-face events of this size aren’t currently feasible due to the coronavirus and social distancing measures, you can attend a careers fair online instead.
Fiona Doherty, Marketing Manager with gradireland, offers tips for before, during and after a virtual careers fair, from how to create an eye-catching event profile to how to talk to employers online.
“So what is an online, or virtual fair? An online fair serves the same purpose as a physical fair, allowing you to network with different employers all at one event. Still, there are some noticeable differences in how they work. Much of our advice stays the same as for on-campus fairs. However, as online events inevitably come with new benefits and pitfalls to be aware of, you will need to remember these extra tips to help you navigate virtual fairs like a pro.”
1. Spend time on your event profile
Once you’ve registered to attend a careers fair, save time on the day by filling in your profile in advance. This will likely cover biographical details, education, work experience, hobbies and languages – much like the contents of your CV, which you may be able to upload as well as photos, videos and links if appropriate. Treat it as you would a job application. Fill out all of the fields you can and don’t skimp on details.
The information you include will be pulled from your profile if you apply for a job via the careers fair. It will also be visible to employers during the event so they can filter by their requirements and determine who they actively reach out to and who they prioritise when it comes to accepting students’ requests for one-to-one calls. You want to put yourself at the top of recruiters’ lists and a complete and comprehensive profile gives you the best chance.
2. Test your technology before the fair
Please don’t leave it until the last minute to check that your technology is in working order. Is your device fully charged? Is your internet connection OK? Is your usual browser compatible with the platform? Can you log on? Are your webcam and microphone working ready for a call with an employer?
You can check most of these before the event starts and, if you spot any issues, you’ll be able to solve them or escalate them to the event organiser early on – rather than letting them eat into your valuable time at the event. Tech troubles are universal. Be patient if there are delays, an employer is experiencing issues, or the organiser has encountered a problem on the platform. After all, it’s probably not the fault of the representative you’re talking to and ‘easily irritable’ or ‘easily flustered’ aren’t sought-after qualities in a future employee!
3. Have a plan of action for the day
You can’t just wander casually around a virtual careers fair and approach the stands that catch your eye or look less busy. You’ll need to be more direct and have a plan of action, but still, be open-minded if you encounter an employer you haven’t heard of before. You never know!
Once you’ve registered to attend, add the event to your calendar and set a reminder, so you don’t forget. Nearer the time, double check when the event is starting and ending.
Look at which employers are attending (ideally before the event) and decide which stands you want to take a closer look at, who you’d like to have a conversation with and what questions you’d like to ask.
When you log on to the fair, don’t rush straight to an employer’s booth. Take five minutes or so to familiarise yourself with the host platform, including the layout and the navigation.
Make the most of all of the fair. You’ll learn a lot from features such as CV clinics and webinars. Find out the times of any live sessions and plan your schedule for the day. If you can’t make a talk, ask at the information desk if there will be a recording?
4. Draft your elevator pitch to employers
A common piece of advice for attending networking events is to know your ‘elevator’ pitch’. This is how you’ll introduce yourself to an employer when you approach them and still applies to virtual events. You’ll just type it instead of saying it.
You don’t even have to worry about fluffing your lines as you can have it drafted in a word document, but be sure to tailor it for each individual employer, don’t assume a cut and paste for each employer will work! Think short and snappy. A few sentences summing up who you are, your academic and work background and why you want to talk to them.
5. Get in the right mindset for a careers fair
It’s easy to see virtual events as a lazy alternative to face-to-face events – you don’t even have to leave your bedroom if you don’t want to. But it would be best if you didn’t snooze on such a valuable opportunity.
Give the fair your undivided attention – if you’re half-heartedly browsing while also juggling TikTok, Netflix and study, you won’t achieve much.
You may work well from your bed or your sofa, but if your environment affects your mood and productivity, consider sitting at your desk to get in the right frame of mind.
Set yourself up for the day – make yourself a cup of tea, fill up your water bottle, print off your CV to refer to and have a notepad and pen to hand to take notes.
Make sure your background is tidy in case an employer calls you. No dirty laundry, leftover pizza or beer cans in sight!
There’s no need for office-appropriate attire and you can ditch the smart shoes in favour of slippers but re-think the pyjamas. Employers won’t love your dressing gown as much as you do.
6. Maintain a high standard of written communication
You’ll mostly rely on your written, rather than verbal, communication during a virtual careers fair. First impressions count, so make sure your messages to exhibitors are professional.
Don’t do as we’ve done and pretend to be a character from Game of Thrones.
Use full, grammatically correct sentences.
Take your time. There’s no need to rush to reply and make mistakes.
Don’t use text speak, casual slang, memes or gifs that you’d use with your friends.
Check that what you’ve written is clear, makes sense and doesn’t waffle. Equally, be careful not to sound too blunt or demanding.
Read over your messages for typos before pressing send.
Be courteous and, once you’ve finished talking, thank them for their time and advice.
If it feels appropriate, you could also ask a recruiter for their email address or if they’d be happy to connect on LinkedIn so that you can follow up with them after the event. You should also act on any advice you received at the fair from individual employers or through the careers talks. For example, you could update your CV and LinkedIn profile based on the information you found out from recruiters.