How to Get the Most Out of Attending a Career Fair

By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA

Whether you are actively seeking employment or satisfied in your current position, career fairs are an important part of your ongoing career m anagement plan. These events provide numerous benefits. In addition to keeping you abreast of industry changes, trends, and opportunities, they provide education and information on career and professional development issues. They also provide a great opportunity for making contacts and connections, in addition to giving you a sense of what kinds of jobs are available. In healthcare, as in many other careers and fields at present, change is the only constant. When you know what your employment options are, you’re likely to feel less anxious about the future.

So how can you get the most out of your next career event? By following these five simple steps:

Dress your professional best. You will make some of the most important contacts of your career at these events. You want to make a great first impression. Appearances do count, so dress as though you were going on a job interview. The ideal attire is a conservative business suit for both men and women.

Make personal connections. Approach exhibitors with a smile while making direct eye contact and offering a full, firm, handshake. Introduce yourself. Ask about their business and their company. Ask what they look for in an ideal job candidate. Make a human connection, don’t just get the giveaways and run. Network with speakers, non-employer exhibitors such as universities, and other attendees, too.

Bring your business cards along. If you don’t have business cards, have some made; it’s well worth the investment. A card need contain only your name and appropriate credentials (e.g. RN, BSN), phone number, and e-mail address. This card serves as a calling card, and you can exchange yours with others. Business cards are a key networking tool.

Follow-up. Write your career-event contacts a note afterwards to let them know that you enjoyed meeting them or take a moment to give them a call. Be sure to ask those with whom you speak for their business cards; it’s a sure way to remember names and contact information. On the back of each card, jot specifics as to where and when you met them and what issues you discussed. Keep the cards in a business card folder or in an online database.

Bring copies of your professional resume. Don’t indiscriminately hand your resume out to everyone you meet, but be prepared when someone asks for a copy. Be sure that both content and format are up to date and make sure it’s picture perfect – free of errors, and generated by a high-quality printer on good paper. It is not necessary to bring along generic cover letters to these events.

While attendance at career fairs often leads to immediate interviews, the real value of networking at career fairs is the long-term benefit. The contacts made and information gained today often pay off in unexpected ways tomorrow. Career fairs allow you to plant seeds for the future while staying abreast of industry trends today. Follow these five simple steps and get the most out of your next career event.

Copyright Nursing Spectrum Magazine, Greater New York/New Jersey Metro Edition. All rights reserved. Used with permission.