Searching for a job in the political world can be a daunting task and feel like a full-time job itself. It can be particularly overwhelming in a career fair setting, with so many job seekers competing for potential employers’ attention.
Here are some tips on how to maximize your time and make the best impression when attending a career fair:
1) Prep your resume: Don’t just describe the job you had; sell the accomplishments you achieved. Quantify your performance where possible, and include qualitative descriptions highlighting your results. Make sure you get an extra set of eyes—or two—to proof it. Keep in mind: if you give your resume to five different people to look at, you will get five different opinions. Here is a check-list of best practices to help you streamline the process. Once your resume is ready, make enough copies to distribute at the fair (Aim for twice as many as the number of employers to whom you’d like to distribute it.).
2) Do your research: Most event organizers will publish a list of employers who will be at the event. Go through and learn about those which interest you ahead of time. Research the organization’s mission, leadership, network and the job descriptions. Then plan substantive questions to make the most of your limited interaction at the fair.
3) Network: Career fairs are a great place to network and learn about other opportunities. You can find out more about the basics of networking here. Some tips to help you maximize your time include making your own business cards for distribution at the career fair, and be sure to collect business cards or contact info from everyone you meet (even other jobseekers). After the event, follow up with the people you met, and add them to your network.
4) Dress for the job you want, not the job you have: First impressions are important, and you want to make sure you present yourself well. Business casual is the most casual you should dress when attending a professional event like a career fair, and it’s not uncommon for attendees to wear a full suit. But keep in mind that comfort is key, especially if you’re going to be on your feet all day.
5) Get there early: The old adage “the early bird gets the worm” will help you in this situation. Arrive early to study the map of employers and get your bearings. And be sure to take advantage of additional offerings at the career fair, such as trainings or career counseling.
6) Follow up: A nice email to employers thanking them for their time and the opportunity to speak with them, as well as learn more about the organizations and positions available will serve you well. If they asked you to follow up with any specifics, such as a writing sample or references, do it. And make sure you have a system on-site for keeping track of what you are promising to do.
7) Be yourself and have fun! Potential employers will take note.
Ashley Spillane is executive director of both The Atlas Project and Democratic Gain. For more information on resumes, career fairs or the job search in general, visit www.democraticgain.org