What should I do at a Career Fair?

From what I gather from the email informing me that there will be a career fair is that I can use this opportunity to network and make connections.

I’m supposed to do this by getting myself noticed by asking well informed questions.

Am I the only one that finds some of the above goals a little too vague?

This is going to be a legal career fair. What do I have to do in order to make a connection? Will I know when the connection is made? Is there some kind of signal that I’m supposed to look for?

What kind of questions do law firms want to hear? I don’t really want anything from a law firm except money, and the opportunity to practice the area of law that I like. Should I care about anything else? What types of things should I care about in order to impress a potential employer?

I know nothing about how law firms hire, but I can tell you that a candidate who knows their law firm and how they differentiate themselves from others is off to a better start. I’m sure they have a website where they talk about this in detail.

I’d make myself a few note cards or post-its about who was going to be there before I talked to the recruiter. I’d find out what areas of law they specialize in, when they were founded, some of the top partners and management, and most importantly, recent or well publicized cases they have been involved with. Then read those over right before you talk to each one at the career fair.

That way, when the HR drone asks how you’ve heard about their firm “Dewey, Cheatum, & Howe”, or why you want to work for them, you can say, “I read about the interesting case of ‘Microsoft vs. the United States’ and thought the way your firm handled the prosecution was interesting. I agree that we should all be suckered into buying a new operating system and new versions of MS-Office every few years even though the old versions work fine. I particularly thought the argument from your lead counsel, Frank Johnson, that we should also surrender a pound of flesh was valid since…blah…blah…blah…” - you get the picture. You want to make a connection and seem like you specifically want to work for their firm versus being someone who is broadcasting desperation and “I’ll take anything”.

Things to do at a career fair? Polish a candy apple, grab the brass ring, break the glass ceiling and win a baby, see the bearded lady in HR, etc. :smiley:

Learn who is going to be there, do your research beforehand, and have a game-plan. Remember that popular exhibitors are going to have crazy lines. Prepare some questions about specific firm’s recent cases, specific focus, etc. Try to think of something the presenter hasn’t heard a million times that day (“So…do you have any openings?”) You want to really engage the presenter, and tell them something unique about yourself.

Then, your job is collect business cards. Gather them up, jot down what you talked about on the back, and keep them forever. A day or two after the fair, write the people you talked to and ask them some sort of BS follow-up question. This may keep the lines of communication flowing.

More importantly, when a job does open up, even months down the road, you can now email that person asking specific questions about the job. This may lead you to the inside track.

Where are you in your career? If this is an early career fair, just use this as a chance to get cards, practice talking to potential employers, and get to know the key players in the field.

Wear comfortable, but professional-looking shoes and clothing. The economy is rough, and more people are attending these events than in the past, so you’ll be standing in long lines to get in, to get your information packet, to talk to every decent firm, etc.