By Daniel G. Kelly II, Ph.D., Faculty Director, Master's in Sports Industry Management. This story was originally published on Work in Sports.
A sports career fair can be a great opportunity to meet face-to-face with prospective employers — if you go about it the right way.
The job search can be a truly daunting process.
Career fairs can be a great resource—putting a group of potential employers under one roof presents an opportunity to make lots of connections in a short time. But they can also leave your head spinning if you don’t have a solid game plan.
Often, the price of admission can be a bit of an investment, so it’s disappointing to walk out the door feeling like you’ve wasted your time. Follow these five simple rules for navigating your next sports career fair and avoid getting overwhelmed and overlooked.
1. Research for Results
Spend time researching the companies who will attend the career fair; the more you know the better. Employers love talking to candidates who are familiar with their company and business. Candidates who are knowledgeable about a company come across as intelligent and interested.
Create a short list (who you want now) and a long list (who you want to explore). Being purposeful and knowing what you’re looking for is a major aspect of success at a career fair.
2. Create Business Cards in Addition to Your Resume
Having business cards at a career fair looks professional, sets you apart from the crowd, and is helpful in networking.
If you are a student, your school may be able to order some for you. Otherwise, take a look at some inexpensive online options.
Keep it simple—it’s worth the investment.
3. Practice Your Elevator Pitch
Recruiters talk all the time about the importance of a good elevator pitch—those 30-second speeches that job seekers use to describe who they are and what makes them unique.
Be prepared and confident.
Focus on expertise and experience and interject when your transferrable skills are within the purview of the available job description.
4. Dress for Success
Every company is different. It is important to conduct research and learn the corporate culture.
Rule of thumb: Dress business professional.
Don’t wear shorts and sandals. Use good judgment in what you wear and project professionalism. Bring a nice folder to carry your resumes and a notepad and pen for taking notes.
5. Up Your Level of Engagement
Don’t be afraid to spend time with the “less popular employers.”
Job fairs can feel like a popularity contest, with long lines for certain employers while other booths sit empty. Stop by and say hello to the quiet tables, as well. You may be surprised at what they have to offer, and it can be a great time to get one-on-one advice from the employer’s perspective.
Be prepared for the unexpected.
Daniel G. Kelly II, Ph. D. is the Faculty Director for the master’s in Sports Industry Management program at the Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies.