5 Ways to Prepare for a Job Fair

5 Ways to Prepare for a Job FairPlease welcome back guest writer John Passmore, an assistant managing legal editor in Houston, Texas, to offer advice on how to get ready for a job fair. These can be great opportunities to find positions from 1L summer employment all the way through post grad positions.

Whether it is an internship fair your first semester of law school or a job fair your last semester, such events present a high stakes speed-dating-like opportunity to meet with potential employers. These events are made tougher because they inevitably fall during a hectic law school week, on a crazy law school day. Finding the time to actually prepare for a job fair that carries no GPA weight may seem like a waste of time, but some upfront effort could pay big dividends in the long run. A little preparation can make you stand out among your peers. Here are a few ideas for putting your best foot forward:

 1. Study the Employers

The biggest thing you can do to impress employers is to know something about what they actually do. A simple google search will generally do the trick. For firms, know a little bit about their primary practice areas. For other organizations, try to drill down and get a sense of what types of issues the legal department actually handles. Some employers will actually quiz you a little to separate the wheat from the chaff. Be ready for a question or two. If they don’t ask, try to have a question drawn from your research to ask them. Also, check in with your career services department to see if they can provide any specific background information on the employers or their representatives attending the fair—your career services department’s experience is generally more valuable than anything you will ever find online. Showing employers the due respect of at least putting in a little research will go a long way to demonstrating genuine interest in them and their work.

2. Have Targeted Resumes

Once you have researched certain employers, consider making targeted resumes for each one (or different versions for unique types of employers). Employers are different. No matter how much relevant experience or education you have, you can always tailor your resume to highlight your bona fides that might interest a particular employer. For example, your undergraduate volunteer experience at a women’s shelter will likely mean much more to a non-profit legal services organization than to a tax law firm. Even if you do not remove or add content to your versions, think about what you are emphasizing and what story you would want each employer to get from a quick scan of your resume. (Need some help honing your resume? To have your resume reviewed by true experts, check out the career services at Law School Toolbox.)

3. Make a Plan

Once you have studied up and polished your resumes, make a plan. If for nothing more than your own confidence, put together an order for approaching employers. It can be daunting to approach a table, but with a plan in place, it will be easier to force yourself to not waste time with tables you are not actually that interested in. Passive approaches like waiting for employers tables to be less crowded or going in order of tables will result in you delaying too long and potentially missing employers you are most interested in.

4. Look Sharp

It may not be fair, but first impressions really do make a difference. Fight the urge to let the tyranny of the immediate prevent you from looking the part before meeting potential employers. It is tempting to decide that everyday law-school attire will be fine because dry-cleaning the business suit and changing in the law school bathroom after class doesn’t sound appealing. But it matters. Employers are not just collecting resumes even if that is what it seems. A pressed shirt and a crisp, well-edited resume are two signs of your professionalism your target employers will factor into their perception of you as a candidate whether they acknowledge it or not.

5. Have Something to Say

After all of that preparation, try to have something to say to the person at the table. After that initial handshake, try to take the burden off of the employer by starting the conversation. Realize that they are just people and that they are meeting many, many people all day. This is where your knowledge of the employer can provide you with a solid icebreaker. If you can engage them in some actual conversation about something they know about or are interested in, you stand a better chance of standing out and making a genuine connection with the recruiting employer. No one likes an awkward silence.

Next time your law school announces an internship or career fair, mark it on your calendar like you would an upcoming exam. Despite the grind of your law school schedule without one more thing added to it, prioritize your preparation. It will take less time than you think, and you will notice the difference. Be informed, be confident, and make the most of your next job fair!

 


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About John Passmore

John Passmore is an assistant managing legal editor in Houston, Texas. He received his B.A. from Texas A&M University and his J.D. from The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law.

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