I really liked this idea and I think it could be done even if you aren't in school.
By Heather R. Huhman
If something is not available to me, I’ve always been one to go out and create it myself. When I was in college, I hosted my university’s first (and possibly to this day only) public-relations career fair. It was an incredible success, with more than 200 students and 30 employers in attendance.
How can you duplicate this effort?
Contact the president of your professional association’s student chapter on campus. It is probably best for a student organization, such as the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) or Association of Student Accountants (ASA), to plan and run the fair. While the event can be done fairly cheaply, there will still be associated costs. Plus, numerous volunteers will be needed.
Set goals and expectations. How many students do you want to attend? How many employers? Should you charge attendees, and if so, how much? I don’t recommend charging students or employers, unless you really need to generate cash to make up for the cost of the event. You don’t want to exclude potential participants.
Recruit volunteers. Form a committee to plan the event. Depending on the size of your event, you will need approximately five volunteers during the career fair: two people to “register” students as they walk in (so you can keep track of how many people attended), two people to set up and take down the room and one person to walk around during the event in case anyone has questions or other needs.
Pick a date and time. I recommend beginning at 10:30 a.m. and ending at 2:30 p.m. These four hours of the day are most likely to attract foot traffic. With regard to the time of year, career fairs are almost always held in October and/or March. If you want to catch recruiters on their regularly-scheduled travel throughout the country, you should hold yours at the same time. However, if you don’t want to compete against other events, you might want to think about holding an “out of season” career fair in November or April. October and November fairs should be planned in April or May, and March and April fairs in August or September.
Book a room in a central location on campus. Another good reason to plan a career fair through a student organization is that these groups have the capability to book rooms on campus for free. Pick a location that is easy to find and access and has the capacity to support up to 40 employer tables.
Arrange free campus parking for employers. I was able to purchase parking passes through my university close to my event for $5 each, which helped entice employers to travel from up to two hours away.
Feed your employers. It doesn’t have to be a large lunch, but make something available for the employers in attendance to eat and drink. I ended up making plenty of water runs because I didn’t factor this into the equation!
Raise funds. With an event of 40 employers, for example, expect to pay approximately $20 to $25 per employer (to cover costs such as food, drinks and parking). At the maximum, that’s $1,000. Again, partnering with other organizations on campus can offset these costs if they have a budget allowing for this type of event; however, they likely will need you to raise some money. Consider calling local restaurants to set up a date for a fund-raiser. They typically offer organizations 10% to 20% of the proceeds from the agreed-upon day to help raise funds. If they allow it, organize a raffle or silent auction and sell tickets, too.
Invite employers from the surrounding area. Create a database of all the potential employers in your industry within a two-hour drive using tools like LinkedIn, Gist and Twitter. Call the organizations to inquire about the most appropriate individual to receive your invitation. Then, send your invitations via e-mail and snail mail, offering a simple way to RSVP. Be sure to indicate that employers not currently hiring interns or entry-level professionals are welcome to attend to conduct informational interviews. (Do this two to three months before the event, with the RSVP deadline one month before the event.)
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