Preparing for a Career Fair

What to know and what to do before you walk the floor

Many jobseekers assume that all they need is a resume in hand when they walk into a career fair. This assumption hurts your credibility and allows others with just as much experience to appear superior in the eyes of recruiters and industry professionals.

There’s a lot of legwork involved when preparing for a career fair. The resume is just part of the total package that you want to present to a prospective employer. Without the other pieces, it’s easy for your peers to gain a competitive edge over you. Here’s what you need to do to prepare for a career fair.

Do your homework
This is the first step, even before creating a resume. Get a list of the employers who will exhibit at the career fair you plan to attend. Review their job openings and pick out a few that seem like a good match for your skills. Take the time to learn a little bit about the companies so that you can appear more knowledgeable when speaking with company representatives.

The resume
Once you’ve done your homework you can formulate a resume to highlight your skills, achievements, training, and fields of application. It’s good to have a generic resume to hand out to any prospective employer. It’s better to have copies of your resume that you have tailored to specific employers that you are genuinely interested in working for. For example, if you know a certain employer has openings in its avionics shop, it would be wise to carry a copy of your resume that explains in more detail your special training in avionics.

Resumes should be brief and direct. Most employers only spend 30 seconds looking at a resume and will ignore any resumes that are longer than one page. Highlight the most important aspects of your education and experience on your resume. The rest can be brought up in conversation when you meet a company representative face to face.

Lucy Kollhoff, Career & Employment Services liaison to the College of Technology and Aviation at Kansas State University, regularly advises students on preparing their resumes. She encourages students to list the types of engines they’ve worked on, hands-on experience in the field, and part-time jobs to give employers a dimension of what kind of employee they would be. Other items Kollhoff suggests including are the expected date of graduation, any internships held, full-time job expectations, and any licenses obtained. When it comes to licenses, list those that you already have as well as those you are currently pursuing. The latter should be listed as “anticipated certifications” and should include expected dates of completion. Make sure to mention any professional organizations you belong to and any leadership roles you have held. Steer clear of listing any personal hobbies unless they relate directly to aviation.

The resume of a recent graduate should focus on schooling and training, whereas the resume of an experienced mechanic should focus on real-life experience. You can also develop a cover letter that explains your experience and goals in more detail; it is wise to tailor this to certain employers as well. Make sure to include some information you have found about the company in the cover letter instead of focusing only on yourself.

Not sure where to start when it comes to penning a resume or cover letter? Check out the book Real – Resumes for Aviation & Travel Jobs, edited by Anne McKinney. It devotes 54 pages to showing examples of resumes for aircraft mechanics. Most schools will also have in-house examples on file for you to look at.

Review your resume carefully for spelling and grammar; if grammar isn’t your strong suit, find someone else to read it for you. Computer spell-check functions won’t catch everything. Even if you are confident in your written skills, make sure to have someone else look at your resume before you call it done.

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