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10 Ways to be successful at a job fair

Working your way through a job fair can be grueling and frustrating, but it is a terrific way to make a large number of business contacts in a short amount of time. By being prepared, you can achieve your objective of getting the attention of a hiring manager. Here are some keys to help you land a job.

  1. Stand out in a crowd: When you go to a job fair, you are literally one in a crowd. You need to stand out. Don’t be ridiculous; just be your very best self. Wear your nicest, clean and pressed suit and polished shoes to look your best. Be friendly and warm to everyone — including the other job seekers.
  2. Have an elevator pitch: Be prepared before you walk in with a 30-second explanation of who you are and why you are great. It should highlight two or three things that make you great and should include a one-sentence defense of each. For instance, you might say, “I am a creative, hardworking engineer. In my last position, I led a team that found a creative solution to a problem. We worked nights and weekends for a month to implement the solution. I earned my degree in software engineering at Rutgers in 2007.”

  3. Be optimistic: Remember that whenever someone says “no” that means nothing about you personally. There is nothing wrong with you. Have the courage to keep introducing yourself over and over again. A job fair is a meat market, and you can’t expect to land a job without shaking a lot of hands.

  4. Have business cards: Before you arrive, have some professional looking business cards printed that offer a three to ten word summary of your resume along with your contact information, including a link to your LinkedIn profile. Your goal is to help a manager remember you.

  5. Have a solid resume: At a minimum, you need to have several people in your field review your resume to be sure it is accurate and polished. An investment in a professionally-designed resume would be well worth it if you are looking for a six-figure salary.

  6. Have plenty of resumes: Don’t show up at a job fair and risk running out of resumes.

  7. Don’t be too picky: If you are unsure about your interest in a job or a company, give them a chance to impress you. You can always turn down a job if it turns out not to be a good fit, but give those opportunities at the margin a shot.

  8. Want the job: For every position you approach, be prepared to enthusiastically make the case that you are perfect for this job. Be prepared to explain why you want it, too. Don’t make the mistake of fumbling for an answer as to why the position would be of interest. You can always turn an offer down, but you can’t take a job you’re not offered.

  9. Have some pride: Don’t apply for every job at the fair. Have enough pride and integrity to identify the companies and positions that really interest you. Faking your way through a discussion for a position you know you don’t want or won’t take is a waste of everyone’s time.

  10. Put on your game face: For this game, the right look is a big, genuine smile.

The final key to remember is that the job fair is an opportunity to plant seeds, not harvest crops. Your goal for the day shouldn’t be to get a job or even interviews scheduled. Your goal is to make impressions. Celebrate those moments when you connect, however momentarily it may be, with someone on a level that gets past names and titles.

Devin Thorpe is the author of Your Mark On The World and is a Forbes Contributor.