What is a Career Fair?
A career fair is an event that helps to connect companies looking for new employees with job seekers. Companies often have to pay for a spot to set up a table where a small number of recruiters can sit and talk to job seekers. The recruiters are there to talk about the company and the positions they have open, answer any questions, collect resumes, and act as a point of contact after the career fair is over.
What is a Career Fair Like?
Most career fairs are held in large open spaces like gymnasiums, ballrooms, or civic centers. Each company generally has a table with banners or signs identifying them, and fliers, business cards, and swag to give to applicants. Career Fairs are generally more crowded than the mall on Black Friday, and you often have to wait in line behind other job seekers for your turn to talk to a recruiter.
Types of Career Fairs
Most career fairs are put on at universities. Here are some of the most common types:
- College/University Annual Career Fair: Generally open to current students for free and to alumni for a small fee. May or may not be open to the general public for a fee. These typically have a wide variety of companies hiring for every possible career. A great place to get started on your career search, though the wide scope can make it difficult to find companies related to your field. It is really important to do your research on these career fairs before you go so you don't get lost or overwhelmed. Since these are generally held on campus, it is extremely convenient for students and local alumni.
- Major-Specific Career Fair: If you go to a larger university it's not uncommon for different schools or majors to host their own career fairs in addition to the large campus-wide career fair. These are my favorite, because you have a much better chance of making good connections. You still need to know who you're talking to because not every company there is necessarily in your specific field, but there is a much higher percentage of relevant jobs to apply for.
- Alumni Association Career Fair: It is very common for the alumni association to sponsor career fairs. Often these are also open to current students, but if they are located off campus then students may opt not to go. If you have some experience under your belt then an alumni career fair is a great way to go, because companies aren't looking only for entry-level employees.
- Internship/Co-op Career Fair: This is not the place to go if you are looking for a full time job, but it is a great resource for students who are looking for a summer position or a part time job during the school year. It's also great for students looking for a co-op position. I will discuss co-ops in a later article.
- Corporate Career Fair: I've seen career fairs advertised when a company is opening a new store or factory in the area or for seasonal places like amusement parks. These are less likely to have "professional" positions open, and are more likely to be entry level retail or customer service positions. If that's what you're looking for, keep your eyes open for this type of career fair.
This is part of my Career series. For the full series of Career posts, check out the Career section of my blog.