Browsing the classifieds and surfing the Internet can only get you so far when hunting for a new job, so for many, heading out to a job fair to meet face-to-face with potential employers and network with fellow job-seekers is a productive and necessary alternative.
Most cities host several local and regional employment events throughout the year; but if you're looking for ideas on where to go and what to do, we've broken down the basics for you on the country's biggest and best career fairs.
CareerBuilder hosts job fairs throughout the country catering to individuals with experience in sales, health care, technology, finance, management, government, retail, administration, and customer service. Employers range from large Fortune 500 companies to small local businesses.
Where/When: Dates and locations have not yet been announced for 2011, but look for events to be scheduled nationwide.
CareerBuilder.com offers many tips for job seekers looking to make the most of the job fair experience, with some of the most important being to bring a positive attitude, have your "30 second commercial" ready, and to maximize the opportunity by talking with every company that fits your experience and ambitions.
Keep America Working uses the job fair experience combined with Monster's unique employee / employer matching-technology to connect employers and job seekers in an offline way that is truly useful and efficient. Monster has also partnered with the career non-profits Dress for Success and Career Gear to provide pre-fair networking workshops so members can make the most of their time with employers.
Where/When: Nationwide, March through November 2011; locations TBA (there were more than 45 in 2010).
Monster.com recommends preparing for career fairs by shining up your resume and studying up on participating employers, as well as following up afterward with thank you notes to everyone you meet, thanking them for their time and reiterating your interest in their company.
Founded in 1999 as the first and only company devoted to providing comprehensive employment services for women, Women for Hire's main focus is on hosting "high caliber" career expos where the country's top recruiters can meet one on one with talented women from a wide variety of fields and disciplines.
Where/When: New York (March 31), Chicago (April 6), Dallas (April 12), Atlanta (April 14), Washington (April 20)
Resume and business attire are required, but pre-registration is not necessary and admission is free. Hours are 10AM-2PM with special early morning "Coffee and Career Chat" seminars available (with reservation) prior to each fair.
Originating in New York City, "Salute Our Heroes" has become a nationwide series of events geared to celebrating our country's veterans and connecting them and their spouses with exciting job and career opportunities.
Where/When: 2011 locations and dates TBD, but look for them in New York City, New England, Chicago, and Florida; plus an online version of the career fair is usually scheduled in the fall.
Salute Our Heroes events are for retired service men and women and their spouses and families. In addition to featuring employers from a diverse range of industries looking to hire veterans with a wide range of experience and skills, they also provide career seminars, resume-writing workshops, and other employment services, so plan ahead to make the most of each event.
One of the largest career fair companies in the country, National Career Fairs hosts over 300 job fairs each year in more than 75 cities.
Where/When: Their 2011 schedule is easily accessible online and is broken down by month and region for easy searching. There are events this month in California, Arizona, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Texas and Washington, D.C.
Registration is free and available online for most events. NCF recommends that job-seekers practice introducing themselves with friends and family to improve their delivery and ensure the best possible first impression.
The National Society of Hispanic MBAs is a non-profit organization that serves 32 chapters and over 8,000 members nationwide. Their mission is to foster Hispanic leadership by encouraging graduate education and promoting professional development.
Where/When: There are many career-related events planned throughout the year, but their annual Conference & Career Expo is scheduled for Oct. 13-15, 2011 in Anaheim, Calif.
NSHMBA events and career expos are for members only -- get more information about joining.
TechExpo is a leading technology and top-secret security clearance, career expo company that seeks to connect individuals with extensive technological expertise and / or security clearance with appropriate high-tech, defense, and government opportunities.
Where/When: Upcoming dates include Arlington, Va. (2/15), and Linthicum Heights. Md. (2/16).
Read event descriptions carefully regarding which jobs require security clearance for admission at the door, and which do not. Pre-registration is strongly recommended, as is submitting your resume online for events you are unable to attend in person.
JobExpo specializes in hosting nationwide career events covering professional sales, marketing, management, finance, telecommunication, health care, customer service, information technology and administration positions.
Where/When: Melvillem, N.Y. (April 7); Philadelphia, Pa. (May 4)
Maximize your efforts by narrowing down which industries and companies are your first priority, second priority, etc, and visit with them in that order. Research participating employers in advance and tailor your resume to reflect your most applicable skills and experiences.
Diversity Career Group hosts numerous career fairs on the West Coast with a focus on sales, management, retail, banking and finance. Their primary focus is on face-to-face meetings, but they also allow job seekers to submit resumes to their online database.
Where/When: Numerous dates and locations available now through May.
Their motto is "nothing happens until the candidate and the recruiter meet face-to-face," and although general career fair advice is always applicable, they recommend the basics of dressing professionally, bringing plenty of resumes, and having a firm handshake.
CFG hosts nearly 200 career events in 35 cities nationwide each year catering to those with entry-level through senior expertise in the fields of IT, MIS, business, engineering, management, health care, and sales.
Where/When: Career fairs are advertised 45 days prior to and 45 days after the event.
Considering the wide variety of industries and experience levels, the fairs can be crowded -- so organization and pre-planning are key. Know whom you want to approach, deliver your key messages quickly, and be sure to follow up afterward to solidify your good impression.