One of the most popular ways University of Maryland University College connects students with employment opportunities is through career fairs. Attending an in-person or online event offers a wonderful opportunity to meet recruiters and learn more about potential employment opportunities. With the right advance preparation, it can also be an efficient way to get your résumé to many hiring managers in the same day. Here are a few tips and best practices to help ensure your success at career fairs.

Clarify Your Career Goals

It is important to know specifically what you're going to the career fair to achieve. Plan on spending most of the time during the event networking. When speaking with recruiters, you'll want to be able to express just what you're looking for. Whether it's an internship or full-time employment, the clearer you are about your career objectives, the more likely you are to achieve them.

Register for the Event in Advance

This is an important step in the process, because you may be required to upload your résumé during registration. This means potential employers may view your résumé in advance of the event. This is particularly true for online events, and it can put you in front of potential employers ahead of other job seekers.

Research the Companies

Spend time learning about the employers who will be participating at the career fair. Note the reasons why you'd want to work for a particular company and how would be you a good fit. Visit the company's website and social media pages, and conduct an online search on the company to read any recent news. Prioritize your list of participating companies, and prepare questions for the ones you are interested in meeting.

Prepare Your Résumé

When attending a career fair in person, be sure to bring plenty of hard copies of your résumé with you to give to recruiters. For UMUC's online career fair, you will be required to submit an electronic version of your résumé, but you can always update it prior to or during the event if you wish. If you are looking for more than one type of position, you might need multiple versions of your résumé.

If you want your résumé reviewed prior to the event, there are several tools you can use, all available through CareerQuest.

Prepare an Elevator Pitch

Prepare a two- to three-minute speech detailing who you are, what you do, and what you are looking for. This is your opportunity to sell your skills and position yourself for the job you are interested in applying to. It should be brief and to the point.

Take this for example:

"Hi, my name is [your name]. I am a [student/graduate] from UMUC and a [service branch] veteran. I have done some research on your website, and I believe I'd be an excellent candidate for the [position] with your organization because of my [program] degree and my experience as a [previous job]. Could you tell me more about [area of interest]?"

For the in-person event, practice your introduction out loud so that it feels comfortable. For the online event, type your introduction so that you can quickly copy and paste it into conversations with multiple employers. You may need to create multiple drafts of your elevator pitch that are appropriate to specific employers.

Dress for Success

It is recommended that you wear conservative business attire to a career fair. Your clothes should be clean, ironed, and fit properly. Make sure that accessories are kept to a minimum. Refrain from wearing cologne or perfume, as an employer might be allergic. Even if you're planning on attending an online event, you might consider dressing professionally for that as well, as it may help you get in the right frame of mind.

Learn more about upcoming UMUC career fairs.

About the Author

Kristin Schrader is the associate director of InternPLUS and military career programs at UMUC. She has a background in human resources and has worked in career services at four universities. Most recently, she was the lead trainer in Europe for the U.S. Department of Labor Employment Workshop, where she taught transitioning servicemembers about the civilian job search. Kristin is a proud military spouse, and she is passionate about helping others achieve their goals.