Careers fairs and shows are becoming more and more common and a great place to explore your options. The Plotr team frequently head out to careers fairs all around the UK, and as a result we've picked up some top tips on how to make the most of your time at one:
What is a careers fair? OK, let’s begin at the beginning! A careers fair is an event where job seekers (or future job seekers who are still at school) get to explore the world of careers. It’s a place where schools, recruiters, employers and organisations all meet in the same space to ask questions or share what they know. Job seekers can use a careers fair as a chance to network and explore employment opportunities. Students can use a careers fair as a brilliant way to explore employment ideas they might not have thought of before, while discovering all kinds of ways to get the skills and knowledge they need. It’s an explosion of ideas, workshops and careers resources, all under one roof.
Now, how can you make a careers fair really work for you?
- It's OK to be unsure Feel free to be amazed at apprenticeships, wowed by work placement opportunities, curious about college options, undecided about uni and super-intrigued by sponsorship degrees. It’s just a few magical hours, so let yourself be bedazzled by the likes of British Gas Apprenticeships, Transport for London and a host of other national and local employers keen to show you what they've got to offer.
You don’t have to walk into a careers fair already knowing what you want to do – it’s the perfect place to explore and find out more. There are lots of options out there but approaching employers and colleges and talking to the people that work there is the very best way to learn more about what's in store and what might be right for you.
Pick things up The time goes by very quickly, so you don't always get the time to ask all the questions you’d like. That’s not a problem – just pick up all the leaflets, pens, toys and gadget being offered by employers and organisation. These freebies are there for you to take, and they’ll have the employer’s name and details on them! Picking up a branded pen or toy or leaflet means you’ve got what you need to go back to that employer or organisation’s website in your own time and explore further.
Don’t rule any companies out Organisations cover all sectors. Think Transport for London just recruits train drivers, Waitrose is only looking for shop floor workers, the BBC is only interested in actors or TV producers, and British Airways only recruits pilots? Think again! Whilst an employer might have an obvious recruitment need, there's a whole host of other staff working behind the scenes to make stuff happen. This means that no organisation is off limits. No matter what you think you might be interested in, go and talk to organisations to explore all their programmes. That fashion brand may be looking for someone whose main focus is finance. That bank could be the perfect place for you to sharpen your web development skills.
Go round the careers fair more than once Careers fairs often have a mix of people – expect to mingle with young people of all ages, teachers, parents, employers and some people that are a mixture of all these things! What that means is it can busy - if you think something is interesting, circle the hall again to go back for another visit, and at the very least pick up some information so you can check out their website another time.
Ask questions Careers fairs are friendly, sociable places. There’s no need to feel shy, because no question is too big or too small. Discovering stuff you don’t know is what a careers fair is all about! If you aren't sure what a stand offers, go and ask. The staff there will welcome your questions and enjoy talking with you! Nine (and a half) times out of ten, the staff on the stands will be employees - mostly graduates, apprentices and entry level staff that have faced the same challenges as you. They are a source of advice and guidance, and know where you’re coming from because they’ve been there themselves.
Be selfish. You do you! Careers fairs are often a great chance for a school trip with your class mates, and yes, it might be more exciting than the usual school afternoon. Look at it this way: You get very few chances to meet and chat with organisations before you start facing interviews. A school trip is fun, but a careers fair is a REALLY great chance to ask questions and find out more. If you see something you like and want to take a closer look at, don't be held back by a group of friends. Your friends will still be there, and you can always catch up with them later. Put yourself first. See the stuff you want to see, ask questions of the people whose stands you’re interested in. Now’s your time, so take it. Seize the day!
Get connected Follow, like, sign up! It's true what they say... social media really CAN get you a job! Even the oldest organisations have social media channels. Keep an eye out for Twitter handles to follow so you can keep up to date – you’ll probably find them on all the banners and leaflets you see on the day. Look out for alerts to sign up for more info from employers. Let’s face it, the future of their organisation is only as good as the talent they recruit, and they know it! Whatever stage you are at, you can sign up and be more informed about work experience, graduate schemes and apprenticeship open dates, as well as how best to wow employers at a job interview.