Yesterday, I found myself saying something I often say this time of year: “One of my all-time favorite things is to go to a job fair!”

The response I received to this was not unexpected. The job seeker I was talking to hadn’t even thought of attending a job fair since college. They seem so juvenile on some level, don’t they?

Go Big: The Benefits of Large Job Fairs

I will admit tiny job fairs aren’t always everything they’re cracked up to be. I’ve been to fairs with 10 or fewer employers who have tiny booths and very few actual jobs. These events add little value to your life and could eat up an otherwise perfectly good afternoon.

But a good job far can be worth its weight in gold. On more than one occasion, I’ve successfully landed a job as a result of attending one of these events.

Large fairs can have as many as 300 or more employer booths. Often, the companies represented are the ones you’ve been dreaming of, such as Facebook, Google, and FedEx. Each employer has a booth that’s manned by someone from the company’s recruiting team. They’re there to answer questions, collect resumes, and in some cases, conduct interviews.

You heard me right: The recruiters often conduct first-round interviews at large career fairs. Can you imagine how much time you could save in your job search if you could simply walk from recruiter to recruiter in person?

Where to Find Job Fairs Near You

Finding the right fair can take time, but it is worth the effort. Start by looking on local chamber of commerce websites and the websites of young professional groups. They often help career fairs get the word out.

Then, check out the websites of various national organizations, such as the National Society of Hispanic MBAs, the Society of Women Engineers, or Net Impact. These groups have huge annual conferences. As part of these conferences, they typically host large career fairs. The organizations will often sell career fair-only passes for $100 or less – much cheaper than the full conference price.Ferris WheelIf you’re not sure which organizations to look up, try checking out your local convention center’s website. You can usually find a calendar of events that will contain a listing of all upcoming fairs and conventions.

Keep in mind that the same recruiters attend many different job fairs all year. The particular fair you attend is not as important as the specific employers you meet.

Attending the Fair

Once you’ve found the fair you want to target, prepare four things: your outfit, your resume, your business cards, and your elevator pitch. Study the job fair map provided and decide which employer booths you want to stop by. Look up those companies online to see which open positions they are currently promoting.

On the day of the event, arrive early. Prepare to stay all day. Feel confident when talking to recruiters about your job search, and don’t be afraid to ask for their business cards. After the fair, follow up through email and LinkedIn.

With a little work, you’ll find job fairs can be invaluable no matter how old you are.

A version of this article originally appeared on The Memphis Daily News.

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