In our latest security clearance careers podcast we’re talking job fairs and career networking. Learn why only 3-5 percent of job seekers will actually get a job through a job fair, and how to put networking to use (regardless of where you’re at). The focus on networking is so important that it is the central component of the ClearanceJobs un-career fairs. Exclusive events hosted in the Washington, D.C. metro, un-career fairs take all of the best aspects of networking, and remove all of the awkward qualities you’ll find at the typical job fair. Check out more tips for how to succeed at networking in this two-part article by Julie Mendez.

1. Keep realistic expectations

First of all, you need to realize and accept that you most likely will not be offered a job at a job fair. You will not even begin the formal interview process at a job fair. To go to a job fair with unrealistic expectations is just setting yourself up for disappointment.

Why even go then? Job fairs are a fabulous opportunity for networking! Where else are you going to have multiple organizations that are currently looking to hire, all in one place? Your goal should be more about working the room and building relationships with your target organizations.

In addition to hiring managers and recruiters at each booth, look for additional networking opportunities around you! Often professional organizations and employment agencies attend career fairs. Sometimes there is an organized program of events with speakers on various topics. Other job seekers around you might also be a great fountain of information and support.

2. Prepare ahead of time!

Research is the most important thing you can do to prepare for a job fair! Often by registering in advance, you can see the list of participating organizations. Check out each company’s website, press, and Twitter feed. Be sure to check their “open jobs” page and carefully examine the open positions listed. List any questions you might have about the company and positions you see. If you are a match, have your resume and cover letter prepared!

Do you know anyone who already works at the company? Anyone willing to put in a good word for you before or after the job fair? Alternatively, perhaps you can do a little name-dropping: “I am good friends with Stan in your accounting department, and he told me what a great company you are. I would love to speak with you regarding that _____ position.”

You must have a plan before you walk in the door. See your targeted company list first. Then walk the aisles and chat with the other organizations as time permits.

3. Come with your tool box filled!

You couldn’t build a house without tools, and you shouldn’t attend a job fair without the proper tools, either!

Bring at least 20 copies of your resume to any job fair, and if the pre-registration program allows you to upload your resume, I would recommend that as well. This full list is usually given to all employers who register, whether or not they end up attending. Take advantage of every opportunity to connect with a hiring manager!

You should also bring personal business cards and at least two pens! Having your calendar will be handy if you are lucky enough to convince them to schedule you for an interview right away! Does your position require a portfolio? Bring it. (I also recommend having a bottle of water ready to go in your bag, breath mints, and extra lipstick for women.)

Be prepared with your elevator speech, your success stories, and any research you have done on participating companies, as well as making sure your social media profiles are complete and ready to be checked out by prospective employers. Because they WILL be!

NEXT WEEK:  More Tips to Maximize Your Job Fair Experience!

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Not only the trailing spouse of a US State Department Foreign Service Officer, Julie Mendez once also held a clearance and served as the Community Liaison Office Coordinator at the US Embassy in Rome, Italy. Now a Career Coach and Certified Job Search Specialist with JSM Career Coaching, Julie Mendez serves as the lead Career Coach at’s “UnCareer-Fair” events. She believes her calling is to aid clients in finding fulfilling work that utilizes their unique talents. Julie Mendez can be reached at and