Opinion: Job fairs are useful for getting advice, not jobs

Tips from industry professionals make long lines worth the wait

Finding a job that suits you requires plenty of diligence and patience, as does navigating a job fair. Contrary to popular belief, job fairs are not a waste of time; their true value comes from providing excellent networking opportunities with potential contacts who work in your chosen field.

Chances are that companies tabling at job fairs will only consider offering interviews to applicants with eminent qualifications. In my experience, employers seem unwilling to consider applicants whose backgrounds do not fit neatly into their expected qualifications. This makes the process seem like a waste of time for applicants who may have developed compatible skills through different or non-traditional experience.

A recent job fair I attended consisted of long lines for popular booths, condescending stares from fancily dressed individuals, and the constant bother of receiving pamphlets from employers in fields incompatible to my own. Throughout the event, I had given my job application and information to most booths available and relatable to my field of work. Despite their assurances, I would ultimately hear nothing back from most of them.

Still, this experience was not a complete waste of time. Despite receiving no job offers, I did receive useful information and advice from employers. Some reminded me to always demonstrate enthusiasm, while others gave me tricks on how to hone my various skills and demonstrate my flexibility to stand out more. Perhaps the most interesting and important piece of advice I received, though, was to carry a mini-résumé with me at all times — opportunity may strike when you least expect it.

But when you most expect opportunity to strike — like during a job fair — don’t be surprised if instead, nothing happens.

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