As the Class of 2020 graduates into an uncertain job market due to the pandemic, many may be stuck looking for employment. For the entrepreneurial outliers, those that may have started running their own business in their dorm room may have lost out on a few months of college life. They were hoping to test their product or service before taking it full time in the real world. Either way, both groups find themselves in a similar situation, looking to connect with seasoned professionals, and grow both personally and with those in the industries they’re interested in. Career fairs can be a great way to not only expand your professional network, but also grow your small business without tons of upfront advertising costs, and while you’re at it, you may find a partner for the long run.
Career fairs can be a great place to grow your startup or small business and introduce yourself to eager job-seekers or prospective customers of your product. If you’re looking to start, you need to do your research on upcoming career fairs in your area, match your business needs with prospective schools, and look into any tabling fees. However, with the current state of the world, virtual career fairs are becoming increasingly popular, as well as a lower barrier to entry and less stress to meeting people.
Going into your first career fair, you need to make sure you are organized and have prepared yourself for potential questions. One thing that will help you answer immediate and long term questions about your business is reviewing the recommended steps of how to start a business so you can recall your process, like your business plan and research, and review where you’re heading. This will help you prep for questions from potential investors, mentors, and business partners who will want to know how well your business has been structured. If you haven’t yet, be sure to have a basic website, professional business cards, and a business email set up to answer any follow-up questions.
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Interacting With Attendees
When it comes to interacting with career fair attendees, appearance matters most. Taking the time to look professional, and creating an inviting booth go a long way in having people interested in your business and the products or services you offer. If your business is in the business space, dress professionally. If you’re a cool tech startup, don’t be scared to show the more relaxed side through your attire. As a growing business, you’ll want to cater your pitch or your booth to the young professionals in attendance. Knowing what type of person you are going after is a great first step, but reaching out and communicating with fellow Gen Z’ers can be different than how past generations interacted with recruiters.
A career fair can be a great opportunity to test what signage or branding works, or how certain people respond to your business. It’s an opportunity for small businesses or startups to gain valuable exposure and feedback, helping them to grow. After the career fair, be sure to make an effort beyond a simple email follow-up to those who took their time to talk to you and learn about your business. A phone call or a hand-written letter can go a long way in finding the right candidate for a position, or a lifelong customer relationship.
After the Fair
Though you put all types of work into preparing for the career fair, researching prospective candidates, and working on looking your best, the real work starts after the attendees leave the room or Zoom call! As a business owner, communication and keeping your brand relevant need to be two of your top priorities. A 2016 Careerbuilder study found that 64% of candidates researched a prospective company and 37% would move on if they couldn’t find sufficient information.
The same thing can be said for those simply interested in your company, as well. Because Gen Z and Millennials have increasingly short attention spans and being fed on average 6,000 - 10,000 ads daily, your brand can quickly become lost in the chaos. Staying current on social media, or feeding targeted ads at the type of people you talked to is a good way to keep in touch with them initially. Keeping active on your accounts as well as a clean website can go a long way to helping your business stay top of mind, and easy to find when they’re doing research.
Due to the current landscape, virtual career fairs will be the thing of the future. Coupled with access to thousands of interested attendees in search of a job, and the most exciting businesses in a given space, this is a great opportunity to get your name out there. From the ability to interact with people hundreds of miles away to the prospect of escalating the reach of your brand thanks to the virtual aspect, career fairs are a smart, low-price alternative to growing your business. Remember to take the time to research potential candidates and customers, fine-tune your business plan, and articulate your pitch.