Job fairs make me freeze!!! How can I hide the awkward???

Room full of people and speed interviews one after another. Two things most people dislike the most!

Most job seekers believe that they are the only ones who feel uncomfortable in job fairs, unfortunately they are no picnic for most of us. Often times they are way more intimidating than job interviews with unknown agendas, impromptu conversations and pressure to connect with people. It forces everyone to get out of their comfort zone and face unknown situations.

There is the good and the bad to it. The bad is that they are as pleasant as dentist chairs. The good thing is they give you chance to prepare for your first weeks at a new job. No matter how uncomfortable it is we all have to face being on the spotlight one way or another. Job fairs actually give us a chance to get used to it without being judged. Think about it for a second, what is the worst that can happen? It is like being on vacation. During vacation people always try things that can never do at home around friends and family. Often times you see someone singing and dancing for the first time in their lives. Do you know why? Because they are around strangers and messing up just does not matter.

I see job fairs exactly the same way. It is like a dress rehearsal. An opportunity for you to try out your interview skills, networking skills, conversation skills…without being judged. It is a great chance for jobseekers to practice without actually losing a great opportunity.

Well so how will you make the most of it? First of all do not take it too seriously. It is perfectly fine to be nervous, uncomfortable, shy, hesitant but try to focus on the reason why you are there: to practice your skills. So make an effort to talk to as many people as possible. If you still feel uncomfortable make small steps. Look at the list of participating companies and select one or two to approach and only focus on connecting with those companies. After you talked to the recruiters from your target compan(ies) see how you feel about it and try another one if you feel like it. Next job fair increase the number, you will feel more comfortable each time and you will not feel pressured as much. Recruiters know how job seekers feel and it is perfectly fine to let them know that you are not used to it or that this is the first time you are attending a job interview. They will empathize  with you, they have been there at one point as well and who knows maybe they are also not comfortable in crowds as well:)

Before the jobfair look at which companies are participating and if they have any specific roles that you are interested in. Go over your Resume and work on summarizing your skills in a few minutes. Prepare a few questions and do not be shy about asking them. Wear something comfortable. Look professional but remember that these are often long and overcrowded events so it is important to be comfortable. Unless you target formal companies and client facing roles you can opt for business casual attire instead of a formal suit. I find people to be more relaxed in business casual than in a suit, so wear something you feel good in. Men can always wear dark pants with shirt and blazer instead of suit and women can go for pants/skirt with a shirt and complementing blazer. Do not wear too bright colors and too much make up.

Overall make the best of the experience. You do not need to be best at it and get job offers on the spot, these are not reasonable expectations. Just try to get as much practice as you can and learn about your target companies. There are no shortage of job fairs so even if you feel you did poorly just learn from your experience and be better prepared next time. At the end of the day remember that there isn’t much you can lose, so just relax!

Here is a nice article on the same subject, take a look:

https://www.veritasprep.com/blog/2016/07/an-introverts-guide-to-college-job-fairs/

And a cheat sheet from Oakland University!

http://oucareerservices.blogspot.com/2013/08/are-you-ready-for-career-fair.html

And tons of quick information:

https://www.pinterest.com/uwmadisonlscs/networking-+-career-fairs/?lp=true

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