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UT News

8 Things To Do (and Not Do) Before a Career Fair

A Guide to Help Students Successfully Kickstart Their Careers

by Rosalind Faires

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Students visit with someone sitting at a table in a career fair

Whether graduation is approaching and you’re looking for the job that will let you change the world (and the field you’re passionate about) or you’re in the midst of your college career and in search of the perfect internship, there’s one type of event you should plan on attending. The University of Texas at Austin’s many career, graduate school and job fairs can connect students like you with bright Longhorn futures.

What is a career fair?

A career fair, also sometimes referred to as a job fair or career expo, is an event where individuals can interact with potential employers and recruiters. (There are also specific graduate school and law school fairs, where you can meet representatives of various post-graduate programs.) Attendees have the opportunity to learn about different companies and organizations, ask any questions they may have about open positions, and share their resumes.

How do I find a career fair to attend?

UT hosts a wide range of virtual and in-person career fairs, some of which are open to all employers and some of which are industry-specific. Texas Career Engagement (TCE) offers a calendar of upcoming fairs, which lists times, locations and contact information for each event, is updated regularly, so we encourage you to bookmark the link and visit it often. Most career fairs are open to all current Longhorns and Texas Exes, but a few prioritize students with majors in specific colleges or schools, so always double-check before planning on attending.I’ve found a career fair I want to attend.

How do I prepare?

1. Do your research.

Research any employers you know are attending the fair to familiarize yourself with the opportunities they are recruiting for, their organizations’ purpose, mission, products and more.

2. Update your resume.

Review your resume and make sure it is polished and appropriate. Bring extra copies with you in a professional folio or folder to share with individuals who may ask you for it. If you make a connection with a potential employer, you can always ask if they would like a copy of your resume, but don’t feel the need to hand one out to everyone you meet. Also be prepared that some professionals may prefer digital copies of your resume, so make sure to get their business card and follow up with an email and resume within 48 hours of the event.

3. Prep your social media presence.

Many employers prefer digital recruiting through websites like LinkedIn, so it’s advisable to have a profile there with up-to-date information. Not sure how to put your best foot forward on LinkedIn? Consider taking a masterclass.

4. Dress appropriately.

In most cases, a professional or business casual look will be appropriate for a career fair, but double check if there are specific instructions for the event you are planning to attend.

5. Make a good introduction.

Develop an elevator pitch that you can use to introduce yourself when you meet new people. This will be a short introduction you provide that explains who you are, your previous experiences and skills, and your future career-related goals.

6. Be ready to network.

Prepare questions that will serve as good conversation starters. Networking can be a lot easier if you have a plan on how to engage with other participants. Don’t feel the need to stick to your questions exclusively, but use them whenever you get stuck in a conversation or are unsure of how to start.

7. Follow up with a thank you.

If possible, ask for a business card or take note of the employer representative’s contact information after talking with them at the fair. Within a few days of the event, send them a follow-up email thanking them for their participation in the event and highlighting a few of your take-aways. If they encouraged you to let them know once you have applied for a position in their organization, make sure to send that follow-up email as well.

8. Get help.

Schedule an appointment with the TCE CareerEducation team or your college/school career center for help preparing for and making the most out of your next employer event.

Can’t find what you’re looking for or have additional questions?

Reach out to TCE staff via email at careerengagement@austin.utexas.edu or call 512-471-2425, and they’ll try to provide the career guidance you’re looking for.