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Make Job Fairs Worth Your Time

STICKY SITUATION: I went to a job fair last week but thought it was rather stupid. I didn't meet anyone there, nor did anyone interview me. Are job fairs just a waste of time?

WHAT THE EXPERT SAYS: They're not a waste of time if you know how to attend one. Most of the work is done before you even go through the doors. The next time a job fair rolls around near your town, follow this to-do checklist so you can make the most of the fair and your time:

  • Call the organizers and get a list of companies participating in the job fair.

  • Make a hit list of the top five or 10 companies attending that you'd like to work for.

  • Go online or to the library and research those companies like crazy. What's the company's strategy for growth? How can you fit in?

  • Once you target the companies you'd like to work for, call those companies and find out who is attending the job fair. Get the person's name, title, address and, if possible, phone number.

  • Write a cover letter to the person who will be attending. Slip the letter, your resume and your business card into a letter-sized envelope. Address the envelope with the person's name, title and address and include your return address. But instead of mailing this letter, take it with you to the job fair.

Things to Do While at the Job Fair

  • Get a map of where employers' booths are set up.

  • Be very assertive and approach the employers you've targeted at the fair. Find the person your cover letter is addressed to. Introduce yourself and hand him the envelope. Say you've prepared this information for him and you'd like to tell him a bit about yourself, then go ahead and do so. But there is one caveat: A different person may actually be there. Don't let that throw you off. Just say you were told that so and so would be there, and then give the information to the person attending.

  • Make sure to get a business card from the person attending the conference.

Stay focused when you attend job fairs to be sure you get what you want out of them. Don't fall into the trap of getting distracted by other people you may run into at the conference if they aren't in a position to help you get a job.

Make sure to follow up with written notes to the people you meet. Call each individual and, if you clicked with one, ask to meet for a cup of coffee. It's another form of networking that will work in your favor.

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