Career Fairs: The Perfect Landscape for Networking

**Should you attend a veterans’ career fair if you already have a job?** Absolutely! Career fairs provide a perfect forum for networking, whether you’re actively seeking employment or not. They also deliver direct access to the first point of contact for a company’s hiring team.

###What is networking?

A network is an extended group of people who have formed mutually beneficial relationships to help and support to each other over time. And it’s an opportunity for exponential growth: each connection could potentially link you to a legion of partners who can keep an eye out for opportunities for you, and you can do the same for them.

Networking is like building a structure: you must start with a firm foundation that gets added to over time. Having conversations at a career fair is the perfect place to start pouring the concrete.

###Why to network during the job search

Networking during the job search is important for several reasons:

**Access to Hidden Opportunities:** Many job opportunities are never publicly advertised. Networking allows you to tap into the "hidden job market" by connecting with professionals who may be aware of openings or able to introduce you to decision-makers within their organizations.

**Building Relationships:** Networking is about building genuine relationships with people in your industry or desired field. These relationships can provide support, advice, and mentorship throughout your career, not just during the job search.

**Learning from Others:** Networking gives you the opportunity to learn from others who have experience and expertise in your field. You can gain valuable insights, industry trends, and advice on career development from professionals who have been in your shoes.

**Enhancing Visibility:** By networking, you increase your visibility within your professional community. This makes it more likely that people will think of you when job opportunities arise or when they need to refer someone for a position.

**Access to Information and Resources:** Networking provides access to information, resources, and opportunities that you might not have otherwise. Whether it's industry news, job leads, or professional development opportunities, your network can be a valuable source of information.

**Receiving Support and Encouragement:** Job searching can be stressful and isolating, but networking provides a support system of like-minded professionals who understand the challenges you're facing. They can offer encouragement, advice, and moral support to help you stay motivated and focused.

**Improving Your Skillset:** Networking can help you develop and refine your skills through interactions with professionals who have different perspectives and experiences. Whether it's through workshops, seminars, or informal conversations, networking opportunities can contribute to your professional growth.

###Challenge yourself

A career fair is the perfect place to thrust yourself into a situation that many find uncomfortable. By but forcing yourself into these scenarios, you will realize that nervousness is a temporary condition that can be managed, and that you are ultimately in control of it.

Have a certain number of solid conversations at each career fair you attend. If you’re standing in line, make friends with those around you, and find out what fields interest them. Aim for meaningful talks, not just elevator pitches. Listen to the needs of others, and don’t interrupt.

###The importance of following up

If you make a connection, follow up before the trail goes cold. Before you leave an event, make sure you have the business cards and contact information for the people you want to stay in touch with. Make a note of what you discussed with them. Then, connect with them again via email, or even better, in a handwritten thank you note, wherein you mentioned what you discussed.

After you’ve reached out initially, keep looking for genuine opportunities to connect. Did you see an article that may be of interest to them? Send it over. Is there an opportunity for them to present information to a group in their industry? Pass it on.

Networking is a valuable tool, but make sure you keep your resume sharp and updated with your latest jobs and accomplishments. Be open-minded with your connections and watch the opportunities begin rolling in.

####Find an upcoming [career fair for the military community.](