The time of year college graduates and job-seeking professionals look forward to is upon us -- it’s career fair season! And the D.C. area and its surrounding Beltway towns are a hotspot for finding networking opportunities with renowned organizations.

Career fairs are a way of directly contacting employers -- a tried-and-true method that usually gets overlooked. In today’s age of technology, all the hype is centered around job sites such as Indeed, Monster, and ZipRecruiter. However, rather than aimlessly scrolling through an overwhelming number of anonymous job listings online, career fairs offer face-to-face communication with recruiters representing major businesses. And they’re usually free! [caption id="attachment_6729" align="aligncenter" width="530"]Career fairs Business and Engineering Career Fair at Seattle University[/caption] Ensure that you’re making the most of your career fair experience by familiarizing yourself with these tips: Do Your Research It’s a bad look to be “that guy” wandering aimlessly from booth to booth with no sense of direction. While recruiters are at these career fairs to drive you towards their organization, your goal should be to impress them. Don’t ask questions you could’ve easily found answers to by simply looking online. Research the institutions that will be at the career fair you’re attending in advance, and prepare questions accordingly. If they have a career page, look up what they’re hiring for and ask about it in person. Invest in Nice Paper Bring tons of resumes to every career fair you attend -- at least 20 copies. Make sure it’s formatted in a way recruiters will find organized and appealing, because if you hand over a hot mess it’s likely to be perceived as a reflection of your work ethic. Also, go ahead and spend a couple extra bucks on linen resume paper. It’s an easy way to class up your resume and catch a potential employer’s eye.
Bring Samples of Your Work Your resume is only a glimpse at all of your awesome accomplishments. Employers are excited to find someone who can increase their corporation’s success, but if you don’t have the evidence to back it up, you may get overlooked for someone who can. Think about what each business you’re interested in wants to accomplish (or do better) and advertise your achievements towards those goals. Take Notes An additional way to appeal to the organizations you speak with is by writing down what they say, especially when they’re answering questions you have. Recruiters will like to see that you’re a) actually listening to them, and b) showing genuine interest in getting to know their institution. Dress Appropriately Because your time with each recruiter is so short, first impressions are everything. You want your first impression to say you’re professional and have it all figured out, even if you don’t. Always let the employer be the first to make your meeting informal. Follow-up This is probably the key to attending any career fair, and it doesn’t even happen at the event itself! As is the case with any job, there are multiple layers to the hiring process. Attending the career fair and introducing yourself is only the first step. Recruiters interact with hundreds of eager job-seekers at career fairs. To reinforce all the hard work you put into standing out, allow employers a few days to look over your resume, then give them a call and ask if any updates regarding open positions are available. Career fairs Below is a list of upcoming career fairs in the D.C. area, including a few located in the surrounding Beltway towns. You may find even more events you want to check out by doing some research on fairs relevant to the particular career you’re interested in!Let us know what else you’ve done to stand out to employers in the comments below!

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