As a student on placement, and someone who did attend careers fairs at university in second-year, I can tell you that going to these events does help you to find the right second-year placement and graduate opportunity for you.
However, in this blog, I am writing it from a different perspective. It is quite strange to think that last year I was standing on the opposite side of the table, asking all the questions to companies offering placements, to this year standing behind the stand, answering questions. I was on the Johnson and Johnson stand at Leeds University (hi, if you saw me there!)
When I was in second year, eager to get a placement, I went to the fair relatively unprepared but learnt a lot about the application process and what roles companies were offering in relation to my course. This helped me when it came to the application as I was able to gear my skillset to the individual roles. I got chatting to lots of different representatives and gained connections through this.
It is really important to go to see what everyone is offering, even if you are not interested in a placement or graduate job. This way, you can find out what employers are looking for and how to fulfil the professional role for when you do want to take up these opportunities.
How to prepare
Take a notepad and be prepared to get a lot of freebies as companies have lots to give away as promotional materials. Whether that be sweets, product samples, booklets, magazines or leaflets, there is a lot to take away! Think of some of the questions you would like answering. If there is a particular company in the fair that you would like to see, make sure to get there towards the beginning of the timeslot to make sure you get all the information you need. Have a look at the programme before you attend.
Keep asking questions. No question is too big or small. It is helping you to understand what the employer is looking for and from experience of being on the end of these questions, the more the better. It helps us to gear the answers to your interests but also get a feel for what you are like and how engaged you are with the company. We can give advice on skills we are looking for, the most important things to place on your CV and how to apply, as well as some background to the company, what we do and the benefits of our student placements.
A lot of people in first year were asking me about work experience. Although it is great to ask the questions of the companies at these shows, and I would highly encourage it, there is no need to feel disheartened if you’ve not achieved what you went in for. Don’t worry. As I said to every first year, keep asking and keep looking. ‘Networking’ is a term we use a lot in industry as the contacts you make come in good use. Even if companies are not advertising work experience, they often have places for those who ask. It is important to send out a lot of requests and CVs as it will increase your chances of getting the desired experience.
Lots of companies offer a fast-tracking system for students who attend the careers fair and visit their stand. This means that you can send your CV to the provided email address of the company and get fast-tracked to a higher stage in the application process, meaning you are more likely to go further in the process. It is well worth a visit to see if this is available at any of the company stands.