By Heidi Sawyer
Instead of outlining ways to make the best use of your time and efforts at your next job fair, I'd like to take a different approach and talk about my biggest pet peeves. Based on my direct experience, here are a few of my job fair "Don'ts."
Don't Wear Your Pajamas
Your resume might look amazing and list every skill necessary to do the job, but as the saying goes, you don't get a second chance to make a good first impression. Many employers pre-screen at job fairs and your appearance matters. Treat it like a job interview and dress for success. If you attend a job fair in your pajamas, best sweat suit, or beach clothes, your "less than serious" message will be loud and clear. Business casual attire is always your best solution when deciding what to wear.
Don't Bring Your Children
I am a big fan of kids. And, yes, when you push a stroller around the isles at a job fair, people will enjoy cooing at your adorable offspring. However, it's best to leave the kids with a trusted caregiver while you attend the job fair. Why?
Distraction is one reason. All the time booth attendants spend chatting it up with your little one leaves less time for you to market yourself to potential employers. Your priority will rightly be your child, instead of your future employer.
Secondly, the employer will probably wonder, "if they are unable to find child care for one hour for this, how will they manage childcare for a full-time job?" It introduces doubt. If you have children, securing a babysitter for that time frame will be worth it.
Don't Stare At The Floor
Networking is hard for most people, and it puts nearly everyone out of their comfort zone. I urge you to resist the temptation to stare at the floor when you walk past booths, even if you're walking past a company you don't wish to join. Always keep your head up and shoulders back, "own that room" so to speak. Whenever possible, make eye contact and smile as you walk by. One easy tip to remember is that even those running the booth get nervous, and they fear putting themselves out there and making introductions. Be the one to break the ice and you'll be successful.
Don't Let the "Cat Get Your Tongue"
An easy preparation for your next job fair: nail down your elevator pitch and practice it. Often, nervous job seekers do one of two things: say nothing at all, or say way too much - at times even telling employers all the reasons that they shouldn't be hired. Your 30-second elevator pitch is a great way to introduce yourself, explain what you are looking for and offer a tad of your skill base. This pitch should be just enough to peak their interest to call you in later for an interview.
Job Fairs are a great opportunity to connect with people, hone your personal marketing skills and hopefully open the door to some job prospects. Make sure to seize the opportunity to make a good first impression.