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Career Focus

Career fairs: What they are and why they matter

By LISA TRUDEL - March 16 2023
Career fairs: What they are and why they matter

From March 2020 until mid-2022, almost all local Career Fairs, Job Expos, Information Sessions and Hiring Events became virtual or were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, many of these events are in-person again. Recently I was sent 3 questions about Job Fairs: Should I attend?  Is it worth it? What are the benefits of attending?  

The answer is in the following 10 points:

•Understand what Career Fairs and Hiring Events are. 

Career Fairs are multi-sector recruiting events that are very common in Canada.  Some of the exhibitors will be employers with available jobs and there will also be local community organizations promoting their job search and resettlement programs.  These events are usually funded by for-profit companies and supported by non-profit organizations and can be an excellent source of networking and meeting with potential employers. 

• Dress for success.

Dress in business casual attire just like you would when attending a one-to-one job interview. Ensure that your visual image is professional and do not carry a big, bulky bag since you will need your hands free to shake hands or collect business cards. 

• Prepare your general resume.

Bring lots of printed copies of your resume and demonstrate your organizational expertise by keeping them in a folder or envelope. Everything is part of your visual professional image. 

•Research the companies who will be in attendance.

Try to find out which employers will be at the Career Fair and check their websites before you arrive.  Employers can be impressed by your knowledge of what they do and their available jobs you are qualified for.

• Prepare a 30-second introduction.

Employers might ask “Who are you and why are you here?” Be prepared to promote yourself with a short introduction or “elevator speech”. Introduce yourself with your name and what city or country you have recently relocated from if you are new to Toronto. Mention your expertise and what sets you apart from others. For example, you could say:

 “Hello. My name is Jane Smith and I recently moved to Toronto from Vancouver. I am searching for a job similar to what I had in the past. I speak 3 languages, have excellent customer service skills and advanced database management skills. I am interested in re-establishing my career and appreciate this chance to talk with you. I saw on your website that you are seeking a Communications Coordinator.  Are you accepting applications today or holding on-the-spot interviews?” 

By ending your elevator speech with a question, you are opening up the conversation. 

• Watch your manners.

Be friendly, stand up straight, don’t chew gum, don’t fidget, don’t sway from side to side, don’t play with your hair, don’t smell like sweat or cigarette smoke, don’t act distracted and don’t be on your phone when talking with an employer. Instead, be calm, have a bright smile, use a confident tone of voice, be interested in the person you are speaking to and say thank you at the end of a conversation. Always try to make a good first impression.

•Be aware that Career Fairs are not social events.

Do not fall into the mistake of interacting on a social level and forgetting you are being judged on your potential to function in a work setting. Job Fairs, Career Expos and Hiring Events are professional networking forums, not personal gatherings.

• Have an open mind: You might have 3 employers on your target list, however if you have extra time take advantage of the opportunity to talk with other employers who are not busy. You might be surprised to learn something and at the very least you are practicing initiating a conversation in a less formal business environment which is an essential skill in the Canadian workplace.

• Appreciate that you will be evaluated on more than your resume: Often your resume is the only thing an employer sees to determine whether or not to interview you. At a Career Fair you have an opportunity to stand out from the crowd. Communication skills and workplace-appropriate skills are critical in the workplace and many employers evaluate these skills very seriously because they want to hire staff who can make a good impression with their customers.

• Provide a memorable goodbye: If you have an on-the-spot interview or if you meet an employer you really want to connect with, be prepared to ask relevant questions regarding the next step in the recruitment process. Take initiative and follow-up when you get home by sending a thank you email with your resume.  Always ask for a business card to ensure you have the correct email.  Everyone likes to be thanked and this will show that you really want to work with them. It will also start an email thread that will hopefully lead to you securing a job with an employer that you connected with at the Career Fair.

In summary, attending a Career Fair can be worth if you understand the benefits and your own expectations of what will happen. Use these 10 points to enhance your knowledge so even if you leave without a job, you leave with new information and inspiration about networking which is the #1 way of securing employment. To find out more about networking, contact your local Employment Ontario funded Career Centre and find out if you meet the criteria to use their free services. 

This article was written by Lisa Trudel, Career Specialist with Achēv at 100 Lombard Street in downtown Toronto. You can contact Lisa at ltrudel@achev.ca


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