Guest writer Jennifer Goodman returns this month with some wisdom for transitioning service members and veterans focused on successfully attending employment events.

I recently had the opportunity to attend an employment event to recruit for an available opportunity with a division of my company. This experience brought me full circle as far as the roles I have played at employment events – I have attended as a job seeker, served as an event coordinator, and, now, served as a recruiter. In one capacity or another, I have also attended three different types of employment events: traditional job fairs, hiring events that have scheduled interviews as opposed to uncoordinated conversations, and virtual job fairs.

My experiences have provided me with incredible insight as far as what employers are looking for, what the common job seeker mistakes are, and what a job seeker can really do to set themselves apart from the crowd. Below are my top six recommendations for attending all types of employment events:

  1. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. I have seen both military members and civilians attend job fairs in their current work attire – company name badges and all. I get it, we are all busy and you may only have 45 minutes of your lunch break to attend the event. The 10 minutes you will take in the restroom to change out of your uniform and into professional attire will be time well spent though. Wearing appropriate attire speaks to your professionalism and choosing not to do it can demonstrate a lack of professionalism. This also applies to virtual jobs fairs – the right set of clothes gets you in the right mindset.
  2. Research the companies before you approach their table. It is not the responsibility of the company representative to inform you of what they do and what opportunities are available that fit your skill set. There are two ways to go about researching 1) register for the event and the hosting organization may send you a list of what businesses will be in attendance prior to the event (this is also a good practice and may save you time upon arrival to the event) or 2) if the company list is not sent out prior to the event, inquire upon signing in if there is a business list available and research prior to entering the event. Worst case scenario, go recon the room and research businesses of interest prior to approaching their table. Is this a lot of extra work? Yes. Will doing this make you shine as a prepared individual who has a genuine interest in the company? Absolutely.
  3. Use your research to be specific about what you are seeking. Yes, the military develops diverse individuals with a wealth of varied experiences that make you capable of doing anything. Marrying a member of the military can also result in spouses having diverse experience in multiple industries/roles. The reason I say to be specific is because employers will normally have absolutely no idea what to do with someone who has not yet determined themselves exactly what they want. I always recommend that you consider your passion and pursue a career congruent with that passion. At a minimum, I recommend that you state a clear direction with each and every employer with whom you speak. Know how your experiences fit with their organization and tell them exactly why you are what they are seeking. Failing to do this may quickly result in a closed door.
  4. Have your resume ready to go with multiple copies. Don’t get caught empty handed. Knowing what companies are attending the event and their available opportunities is vital to this and it is important that you have a resume that clearly demonstrates what you are seeking and how you are the right fit for that role. My personal recommendation for traditional employment events is that you print your resume double sided. I realize that this goes against the rule of thumb to do two separate pages; I personally make this recommendation because I had a stack of resumes when I left the event I attended as a recruiter and there is a greater likelihood with more than one page that the pages will get separated. If you choose to do 2 pages, just make sure your name and page number are on the second page.
  5. If you choose to utilize networking cards (which I highly recommend) leave the back blank. When attending as a recruiter, I made notes on the resumes I received and, had I received a networking card, I would have wanted to make notes on it as well.
  6. Don’t take someone with you to the event with the intent of having them by your side every moment. Employment events and not the kind of place you take a plus one. I also do not recommend approaching company tables in groups. Demonstrate that you are able to stand on your own two feet and speak to your incredible abilities independently. The quickest way to ensure you won’t get the job is to take a chaperon with you to YOUR job seeking events.