Whether you’re a student or seasoned professional, career expos can provide a valuable experience. Every year, dozens of career fairs take place across Australia in a variety of industries, connecting jobseekers and students with organisations and recruiters. Attending a career expo puts you face to face with the people who can answer career questions and guide you on your professional path.
The Benefits of Career Expos
To learn more about the opportunities presented by these events, we spoke to several career expo organisers. They cited an array of potential benefits.
Accessing Up to Date Information
Shane Lynch of careersevent.com said that events like his provide ‘A vast and diverse array of organisations that can be accessed all under the one roof. A one stop shop for the latest information on employment opportunities, further training and tertiary studies.’ Lizzie Detta from studygoldcoast.com.au cited numerous potential benefits, stating that ‘The Gold Coast Careers Expo brings educators, career advisers, students, parents, prospective students and job seekers together to explore study options and career pathways on the Gold Coast.’ She mentioned that this type of event allows attendees to connect with employment pathways, investigate options for further study, gain up to date information about training options and careers, and consider up-skilling.
Exploring your Options
Expos also provide workshops and seminars to explore options. For example, Nicholas Ricciuti from www.reinventyourcareer.com.au explains that ‘each event, held annually in Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney, offers attendees access to scores of real jobs, a dynamic seminar program, interactive career workshops, individual career check-ups, resume services, Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) assessments and much more.’
Certainly, the wide range of exhibitors that you’ll find is a major benefit in itself. Bill Lennox of the Melbourne Career Expo states that ‘our expo encompasses all career opportunities from employment to education and training in the trades, corporate and professional sectors… one of our biggest attractions is the CDAA. They have qualified consultants ready to discuss anything to do with careers and resumes and hold some great seminars and workshops throughout our event.’
Networking at a Distance
If you live in a remote area or have a busy schedule, attending an online fair provides unique opportunities. Karen Lawson from www.careerone.com.au explains that ‘VFAIR is a virtual platform that allows companies and education providers to showcase their brand and connect with potential employees and students in their own environments and on the go. Unlike traditional career fairs, VFAIR is open 24/7 over a 2 week period allowing users to access information at a time that suits them.’
While it can be difficult to track just how many attendees find jobs after an event, Ricciuti says that ‘In 2014 the Reinvent Your Career Expos placed over 2,000 Australians into work. The national post event analysis, comprised from the information taken from a collective 793 attendees who completed the exit survey at the 2014 expos, indicated that 9% of people found a real job whilst attending the Reinvent Your Career Expo.’ And Christopher Brooks from careersemploymentexpo.com.au mentions that although ‘the recruitment side is done after the event by the exhibitors and they don’t always record the information. We have 60 – 70% repeat clients which tells us the process must work.’
Making a Great First Impression
If you want to make the most of the opportunities that career expos provide, here are a few tips that come straight from the source.
1. Do your research
You could certainly walk into a career expo without any planning, but you’ll gain more from the experience if you know a little bit about the organisations who will be attending. Bill Lennox recommends visiting the exhibition website first, where usually you will find the floor plan and exhibitor list.
It’s also helpful to know what you’re hoping to gain from the experience. He recommends visiting a careers counsellor prior to the event. ‘Organisations like the Careers Development Association of Australia (CDAA) have a network of practitioners that can assist with a variety of services including careers profile analysis for individuals. Informative websites like www.careersevent.com also provide access to quite a few resources.’
2. Come prepared
If you’ve never been to an expo, you may wonder just what to bring on the day. Lennox suggests ‘a current resume preferably on a USB stick or hard copy. Comfortable shoes. A large bag to collect all the exhibitors brochures and free gifts, an iPad or iPhone as lots of exhibitions have online competitions where you get to win some great prizes, some money to buy refreshments, and a notebook.’
Naturally, if you’re attending an online event you can scale this down. Lawson says that ‘the great thing about our virtual online fair is that you don’t need to bring a thing! Unlike traditional career fairs, VFAIR is all online, and accessible across Desktop, tablet and mobile – and open 24/7 for the duration of the fair.’
3. Ask questions
One of the primary pieces of advice that most of the career organisers offered was to ask plenty of questions. Not sure what to ask? Here are a few suggestions.
- What are the career prospects like and scope of jobs on offer at completion of a specific study program?
- What are the payment options for tuition fees?
- Are there any scholarship opportunities and level of government support on offer?
- My passion is… is this job for me?
- My ideal requirements in a job are… is this job for me?
- Is there a possibility in this role/organisation for me to further my career?
- How many people are there currently employed with your organisation?
- Is your industry and/or organisation growing?
- How can I best match my skill sets with the opportunities in your company?
When it comes to online fairs, you’ll also have plenty of opportunity to ask questions. Lawson states that you can ‘interact with stands and ask lots of questions through our live chat feature – these chat sessions are with real people from some of Australia’s best companies so make a good impression by showing you are hungry for information!’
4. Enjoy the experience
Although you’ll be meeting recruiters, visiting a career expo shouldn’t be a nerve-wracking affair. This is your chance to learn more about the opportunities out there and have a two-way conversation. Christopher Brooks says ‘Be cheerful and confident, the exhibitors are there to tell you their story, so be ready to listen and get involved in the discussion.’
5. Don’t stop networking after the event.
When you speak to exhibitors, many of them will ask you for your contact details and follow up accordingly. However, it doesn’t hurt for you to take the first step as well. Lennox points out that ‘our exhibitors see an extreme amount of people over the 3 days.’ Lynch recommends that you ‘ask about information evenings, Open Days, student for a day opportunities, work experience opportunities, etc.’ while Detta says to ‘grab a business card at the event and follow up with an email or a phone call.’ At online events like VFAIR, Lawson states that ‘attendees have the option to register to a particular company which will allow them to provide their contact information. You can also request further information or a follow up through the live interactive chat sessions.’
Finally, remember to have an open mind. Brooks offers this parting advice: ‘It’s best not to have a preconceived ideas about a company attending the event. That’s why they attend, to communicate their employer branding message. Just attend, ready to listen!’ Ricciuti seconds this with ‘be open-minded – don’t disregard an exhibitor based on what you think you know about them. The Reinvent Your Career Expos are designed to break down misconceptions about industries and organisations, and open up previously unthought-of career opportunities.
This article would not be created without the help of the following people:
- Karen Lawson from Career One
- Shane Lynch from Careers Event
- Lizzie Detta from Study Gold Coast
- Christopher Brooks from Careers Employment Expo
- Nicholas Ricciuti from Reinvent Your Career