See the previous article on security clearance job fairs and 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 security clearance job fair. Check out more tips for how to succeed at networking in the second article in our security cleared job career series.

1. Dress the part

Presentation is important. Dress for the part you wish to have (or one step above). Conservative business attire is highly recommended.

Moreover, be organized about what you carry with you. You do not want to have your hands so full of items that you are fumbling with them, and are not able to shake a hand when offered! Often these events have all sorts of “swag” – brochures, pencils with company logos on them, and you will need a place to store these items. Be ready.

2. Have your game plan

If you have prepared, then this is partially complete! Whenever possible, visit the booths of your primary target companies first. Then start as far away from the front door as possible. Work the room opposite of what everyone else is doing. This will give you the chance to talk to some tables before the mass mob hits.

Don’t expect to be able to have a full 30-minute interview with a company during a job fair. Hogging a recruiter’s time (who is there with the goal of meeting QUANTITIES of candidates) will only antagonize a potential ally. The best you can expect is the briefest of mini-interview, perhaps five minutes in length. Anything more than that is a bonus.

That is why is so important to prepare. Non-preparation is a perfume that is incredibly strong and easy to smell on a job seeker! When you have your 30-second commercial and your specific questions for each company ready, the recruiter will be very impressed that you get straight to the point.

Just walk in with confidence and strong handshake, spend your 3-5 minutes with them, exchange business cards, and ask if there is an acceptable time to follow up. (TIP: Write down whatever they say on the back of the business card!) If you feel like you have hit it off, perhaps suggest a particular time within a few days to meet and regroup.

If the booth you are trying to reach is mobbed, then skip it and try again later. Check out the other target companies on your list. Perhaps talk to the booth next door while waiting for the line to die down. Be sure to use your time as wisely as possible. Waiting in a 200 person line for hours to see just one company is not the best strategy. In that time you could have spoken to at least ten different organizations and fostered new relationships.

3. It is all pointless, unless you . . .

Follow up. Follow up with every single person you meet. Send a personal email, and then connect via social media. This is why you have your own business cards – so you can collect the business cards of others!

Follow up is the secret ingredient to every single job search. Networking does not work without follow-up. Remember, networking is simply building relationships. You can’t build a relationship without talking to someone.

A job search does not happen overnight. Security clearance job fairs are another way to water the garden that blooms into your new job and career!

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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