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How to make the most of your experience at the New Year, New Career military job fair

Going to a career fair doesn’t have to be a daunting task if you prepare well for it. A military-focused career fair like New Year, New Career should be looked at as an opportunity and not a chore. If anything, it is good practice for interviews you will be participating in down the road.

Even if you are happy where you are at professionally or you are in school, networking now could prove invaluable in the future.

According to a report from ABC News, 80% of today’s jobs are landed through networking.

Also with more and more veterans getting out of the military than ever before, the competition for openings that military-friendly employers are offering is fierce.

So, how do you stand out among all the other similarly-trained military veterans?

You must learn how to sell yourself by crafting your own ‘brand’, and then selling that brand effectively using tools like creative resumes, video cover letters, stellar portfolios and impactful elevator pitches.

A job fair purpose is not to land a job on the spot but to get your foot in the door. Getting an interview or some other type of follow-up action on behalf of the employer is a successful outcome from events such as this.

Most jobs fairs publish a list of participating employers a week to a few days before the event. Our list can be found here.

Try to do as much research as you can on the employers you are interested in. A good place to get real reviews of what prospective companies are like is on Glassdoor. You can do a search by company and find current and former employee reviews of the management, salary, benefits, work culture and more. That way you can see if you would be a good fit in the position you are going for or just a good fit in the company culture in general.

Bring copies of your resume but most employers at these types of fairs may also want you to apply online via a laptop or tablet they have on site.  Some recruiters prefer a resume emailed to them and will not take your hard copy so it’s a good idea to get business cards made up to give to recruiters instead.

Dress in appropriate business attire unless you are still on active duty and you are coming to the fair on your lunch break. There is no need to change out of your uniform for the fair. Uniform wear counts as professional attire at our job fair. And if you are worried you will not have time to eat lunch at the fair we’ve got you covered! Every job fair attendee will get a free brown bag lunch that you can eat at the fair or take with you.

You will be one of several candidates that the company will meet during the job fair. In order to be memorable at the fair, enhance your presentation with a personal story which relates to the company culture Look the recruiter in the eye and establish rapport with them. Find some common ground. Learn a little bit about them.

Greet each recruiter with a firm handshake, nice smile, and warm delivery.

Following up after New Year, New Career is crucial. Sending a thank you card snail mail is an option but an easier way to do it is to craft an equally pleasing thank you email you can send to the companies that you had the best rapport with at the job fair. That keeps your name and information in the forefront of a recruiter’s mind. Timing is key. You do not want to look to pushy or desperate, so sending a thank you about 24-48 hours after the event is appropriate.

Other things to remember at a job fair is to know a little about the ‘language’ your target employer(s) speak. It’s their internal values, culture and systems, tone, wording and messaging that makes the company unique. Companies promote their values, culture and systems to make it easier for job candidates to see where they align, and then customize their approach to the needs of the potential employer. To disregard culture and your fit for a company’s personality, is to miss a bit part of the civilian work place experience – how we work is as important as what we do.

Need last minute resume help? MVRC representatives will be at the fir to help revamp your resume, and write cover letters on the spot. Look for our bright yellow tablecloth!

Good luck tomorrow!


–Stefanie Hauck