We’re going to quash this once and for all: careers fairs aren’t just a chance to bag an armful of freebies. We’ve heard stories of students stripping stalls bare and taking promotional material that wasn’t theirs for the taking. We’ve seen countless students go delirious on freebies, stoked that they managed to nab themselves a rubber emblazoned with a company logo.
Yes, we all love freebies (you should have seen the hordes of city-types going nuts for a free soya yoghurt sample in Liverpool Street Station), but so many students are missing the whole point of careers fairs: that they’re an excellent chance to meet potential employers face-to-face.
What are careers fairs?
Let’s examine the basic anatomy of a careers fair. They take place, usually, in universities and conference halls across the nation. Organisations set up stands and bring company representatives along who will talk to you about their company, their industry and what opportunities they have for students and graduates.
Careers fairs offer you valuable face-to-face time with graduate recruiters. It’s a great chance to find out more about companies and their culture and the possible direction you want your own career to take. There’ll also be plenty of company literature to aid your research and, yes, some will be handing out freebies to lure you over to their stall. Aside from company stalls, there might be also be talks, presentations and CV workshops, which are also certainly worth attending.
Why should I go to a careers fair?
Put it this way: what’s stopping you? Careers fairs are a great way of getting to know the different employers in your chosen industry. Students who use careers fairs effectively might have a higher success rate of getting through to the later stages of graduate scheme application processes. They are also great places to hone your networking skills.
Don’t underestimate the value of personal contact with company representatives. It’s a great way to get an insight into life in their industry, to ask any questions you may have, to learn more about their company culture and to find out what they expect from job applications.
Meeting a company representative will give you a better sense of whether the company is right for you and, of course, it’s also a chance to find out more about graduate schemes and internship opportunities. You could even try and wangle yourself some cheeky work experience.
I’m not in my final year yet. Can I still go to careers fairs?
Careers fairs aren’t just for finalists. They are a great way of obtaining information about different careers, companies and work experience opportunities. It’s never too early to go to a careers fair, particularly as they might give you some ideas on what extra-curricular activities to do.
Also, keep an open mind; companies recruit for a range of roles, so don’t shun science and engineering companies if you haven’t got an engineering or science degree. They also need talented people in other departments like HR, sales and marketing.
Where can I find these careers fairs?
Keep a beady eye out for careers fairs happening at your university and in other neighbouring universities. You can also check out the events section on AllAboutCareers for all the latest updates on careers fairs happening near you.
It’s important that you do your research. Don’t just blindly rock up to any old careers fair. Seek out ones that are most relevant to your career aspirations. After all, there’s no point in going to an engineering fair if you’re interested in law. If you’re unsure about your future career path, you might want to go to a general one first, and then attend more specialised ones as you suss out what industries you might want to work in.
So ditch the freebies and focus on mingling with company representatives. Who knows what pearls of career wisdom they might throw your way?