This post was originally published on OnlineCollege.org.
These days, going to a career fair doesn’t require actually going anywhere. In fact, more and more are being held online, allowing job hunters to meet, network, and interview with prospective employers right from the comfort of their own homes. Because online career fairs are a relatively new phenomenon, many may not know how to navigate or prepare for them, and might even have some reservations about signing up at all. In reality, online career fairs are pretty similar to the real world ones, and with knowledge provided by the tips we’ve collected here, job hunters should be able to get through the entire process with relative ease. Read on to learn how to prepare, interact, and improve your chances of getting hired at an online career fair.
If you want to make the most of an online career fair, you need to do some preparation up front. Here are some tips that will ensure you log on ready to take on every aspect of the experience.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
With an online career fair, you’ll know the companies that will have booths at the fair ahead of time. This gives you the chance to do a little background reading on them, figuring out which would be the best match and ensuring you know a little bit about each one. You’ll be better prepared both to choose the companies you want to focus on and answer any interview questions about them should they come up.
UPDATE YOUR RESUME
As soon as you know you’re going to take part in an online career fair, you should begin updating your resume. Make sure you have your most recent jobs and training listed and that your resume conforms to all modern guidelines. You’ll also want to make sure to have a cover letter on hand, so start early, giving yourself plenty of time to revise and rework it until it’s perfect.
HAVE SAMPLES OF YOUR WORK
Whether you work in a creative field or programming, it can be incredibly useful to have some samples of your work on hand should an interviewer ask for it. Some career fairs may even let you share a few samples or a link to an online portfolio from your profile. Whatever the case, make sure you have something to show off if your industry requires it.
HAVE A GAME PLAN
There are a lot of different ways to approach a career fair, online or off. How you choose to do so really depends on what you want to get out of the experience and your own career goals. Spend some time laying out which aspects of the fair you want to focus on most. It’ll make it easier on the day of, as you’ll know what to do first and what to save for later.
FIND OUT THE BASICS ABOUT HOW THE EVENT WILL WORK
Not all career fairs work in the same way. Some create virtual conference rooms that are very similar to real life career fairs, while others may stick to more basic online technologies. Spend some time familiarizing yourself with how your career fair will work, the navigation it will use, and keep all your passwords and IDs on hand so you won’t waste time struggling on the day of.
FIGURE OUT YOUR CAREER GOALS
Do you have clear career goals in mind? If not, you’ll get a lot more out of a career fair if you sit down and spend some time thinking about where you want to go with your work. It’s important not only for you to know for your own sake, but also because it’s not uncommon for prospective employers to ask questions about your career goals. You need to have a clear answer in mind.
FLESH OUT YOUR PROFILE
The majority of online career fairs will give participants the opportunity to create an online profile. There, you can share information about yourself and post your resume. It’s up to you how much or how little you want to share.
PREPARE QUESTIONS IN ADVANCE
Just as if you were going into a face-to-face situation, you need to be prepared with questions to ask companies and prospective employers. It will showcase your interest in their job opportunities and give you some valuable talking points.
CREATE A SHORT INTRODUCTION FOR YOURSELF
You’re going to be meeting a lot of new people online during the career fair, so it can be very useful to work up a short introduction for yourself that you can use each time you meet someone new. Spend a few minutes thinking about what things are most important about you that you’d like to share with employers and other job hunters, write them down, and have them on hand when you sign on to the career fair.
FIND A RELIABLE INTERNET CONNECTION
The Internet is your lifeline when it comes to online career fairs. You need to ensure that you have a stable and fast connection before ever logging on. If your home Internet isn’t good enough, head to a coffee shop or library to ensure that you won’t get cut off mid-interview by a poor connection.
MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ALL THE REQUIRED TECH
While most computers will suffice for online career fairs, some older models and those with software that hasn’t been updated may not be able to cut it when it comes to the requirements of the fair. Additionally, to participate in interviews, you’ll likely need access to a webcam. Make sure to get all of these things taken care of before the day of the event so you’ll be prepped and ready with the right technology.
DECIDE UP FRONT ABOUT YOUR PRIVACY SETTINGS
Many career fairs will give you the option to be anonymous. You need to decide how private you want to keep your job hunt before the fair. You may want to be open or you may only want potential employers to know who you are, it’s up to you.
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During the Fair
The big day has arrived! These tips will help you make the most of all the resources, meet-ups, and opportunities virtual career fairs have to offer.
Online career fairs often feature presentations, webinars, and chats. These interactions can help you to learn more about individual companies, network, and even improve your job-hunting skills. Taking notes will ensure you don’t forget any important information and can help you highlight the best advice you hear during the fair.
WEAR APPROPRIATE ATTIRE
You may not be meeting people in person, but they’ll still be able to see you if you need to talk over webcam so it’s essential to look professional. Do what you would do if you were heading into any professional situation, even if you’re just online at home.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF WORKSHOPS AND WEBINARS
If a career fair is offering opportunities to learn more and improve your job-hunting and career development skills, then by all means take advantage. While not every webinar offered may interest you, make sure to make time for those that do.
SHOW INTEREST AND INITIATIVE
Job hunting isn’t something you can do halfheartedly, even online. Show potential employers that you’re interested in them by being the first to make contact. Send them your resume, introduce yourself, and make sure they know you really want to work for them.
KEEP IT FORMAL
When chatting with employers and other job hunters online, make sure to keep your language professional. That means nothing inappropriate, no text speak, and no emoticons.
NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK
Online career fairs are an excellent place to network, just as their real-world counterparts are. Spend time not only talking to employers, but also others looking for work. You might make new friends or develop connections that can help you later on.
BE PREPARED TO INTERVIEW
Interviews are not guaranteed at on online job fair, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared. Always have everything you need for interviewing on hand, so if you get an opportunity you can jump on it.
IF YOU HAVE TIME, BROWSE A BIT
There can be a lot to take in at an online career fair, so if you have time, just browse around. You may see things you didn’t know you were interested in that could help you find a job or even a new career path. It never hurts to look.
The early bird gets the worm, as they say, and that advice is probably wise for attending career fairs as well. Don’t wait until the fair is halfway over to start. Get in there early and start connecting!
After It’s Over
Don’t just walk away and forget about your career fair experience once it’s over! Use these tips to ensure you keep the career ball rolling post-fair.
ALWAYS GET INFORMATION FOR FOLLOW-UP
If you do interview with an employer during the career fair, don’t bid adieu until you’ve gotten an email or phone number you can reach them at for follow-up. It will not only help put your mind at ease, but show them that you’re truly interested in the job.
REVIEW YOUR INTERACTIONS AT THE END OF THE FAIR
Some career fairs will let you go back and see what you said and did during the time you spent online. Review who you talked to, what interested you, and where you see potential. Stepping back can be valuable in keeping your career on track and helping you to find work.
USE SOCIAL MEDIA
Show just how pumped you are to be talking to a certain company or participating in a career fair by posting to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter about your experiences. Just remember to keep it positive, your future employers may see it.
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