Navigating College Career Fairs

By Kaitlin Hurtado on November 20, 2023

College isn’t all about going to classes to get your degree — it’s a stepping stone to get to the next chapter of your life and your career. As a college student, you have the freedom to make the most of your college experience. Some opt to pursue educational research, while others opt to build a social and professional network they can utilize later on in life. Your college will have a variety of resources to help set you up for success later on and these resources include college career fairs.

Typically offered by your college career center, career fairs are designed to help current students explore professional opportunities outside of the classroom. Unfortunately, these career fairs can often come across as intimidating and overwhelming. In order to get the most of any college career fair, keep reading for tips on navigating college career fairs.

With these tips in mind, you can set yourself up to navigate your next college career fair like a pro – good luck!

Photo: Pexels

Develop a game plan with research

Before the career fair, whoever is hosting it will likely have a list of employers participating in the actual fair. Help yourself navigate the day of the career fair by researching the employers that are participating – what do they do, where are they located, what’s their company like, and so on. Are they recruiting for a specific position, and what type of employee are they looking for?

Doing homework like this beforehand can help you direct your attention to booths that are worth your while, and prevent you from wandering around aimlessly on the day of the career fair. After your research is done, make sure to make a list of booths you want to prioritize visiting and booths you want to try visiting if time permits.

Even better, look to see if there’s a map of where each company will be located during the college fair. If you are running on a tight schedule, having a game plan down to the route you will use to visit booths can help keep efficiency on the day of the career fair.

Knowing what companies are attending, and what they are looking for, can also help you update your resume accordingly.

Prepare a pitch

Depending on the size of the career fair, you may be limited to a very short time for each interaction you have at the booths you visit. You likely are not going to be able to monopolize any one given recruiter, especially if it is for a company that is highly coveted among other college students.

In order to maximize each interaction, no matter how short, prepare a 30-second pitch to give. Often dubbed as “elevator pitches,” your aim is to be able to effectively communicate within the time frame a short elevator ride offers. You aren’t the only college student looking for an opportunity at the college fair, so be mindful of others’ time.

Come prepared 

When it comes time to go to the actual career fair, make sure to come prepared. Bring your most up-to-date resume with you, and make sure to bring several copies. These copies can be handed out to any employers you are interested in, rather than waiting until after the career fair ends to email them a copy. Tuck your resumes safely in a nice folder or portfolio so they don’t risk getting crumpled or stained as you navigate the career fair.

Dress for the part. While the actual career fair may not advertise a dress code, it is still a professional event. Dress as if you were going in for a one-on-one job interview, or think of visiting each booth as a quick interview. Your interactions with employers or recruiters can be short, but it’s vital to make a good first impression in the limited time you are provided.

Take notes during the career fair

Depending on how many booths you end up visiting, you may end up experiencing information overload. With this, you may end up forgetting smaller details of your many interactions. To combat this, take notes in between interactions and booth visits.

For example, after leaving a booth, you may want to take a few minutes to take notes on the conversation you had with a company rep. This can include any lingering questions you want to follow up with, who to contact at the company for follow-up, or things you want to research after the career fair concludes.

These notes can help you keep track of your progress from the career fair, and help you formulate follow-ups to recruiters after the career fair ends.

These mini breaks can also give you the opportunity to have a mental reset and prepare you for the next booth.

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