10 Common Mistakes at Job Fairs, Trainings, and Networking Events

Last month the Conservative Partnership Institute held an Executive Branch Job Fair on Capitol Hill.  I had the opportunity to work this event.  More than 1000 job-seekers registered!  I met men and women who drove hours and flew into D.C. that morning.  

Events such as these are fantastic opportunities to build your network, and who knows, maybe even secure a job.  Unfortunately, many people make needless mistakes that leave a bad impression.  

Below are the top 10 common mistakes you should avoid.

1.    Not coming at all

If you can’t afford to attend, or you’re worried you may be underqualified, contact the manager of the event.  Trust me, they want high attendance!  Financial and travel resources may be available for students and interns.  Similarly, if you registered but are unable to attend, it is thoughtful to notify managers beforehand.

2.    Incorrect name tag etiquette

Name tags should be provided at events, but feel free to have a printed one always on hand.  A tag should be placed on the upper right side of your chest with both your first and last name.  

3.    Dressing inappropriately

If a training doesn’t specify dress code, business casual is the general rule of thumb.  It is better to be overdressed than underdressed.  Your next interviewer could be in the room.

4.    Typing your notes

It is proven that handwriting notes helps retain more information.  For the sake of professionalism and to prevent distraction, avoid using your laptop and phone completely.

5.    Being afraid to ask questions

Take full advantage of the time you are given with experts.  Write notes and questions throughout the lecture so your memory is fresh for the Q&A period.  


6.    Not introducing yourself to staff and speakers

I always remember friendly attendees who introduce themselves and shake hands.  Saying a simple thank you shows respect to event organizers and speakers who’ve made the effort to be there.

7.    Sitting next to a friend

Interns of the Leadership Institute are encouraged to attend as many trainings and workshops possible.  There is only one rule:  don’t sit next to each other.  Socializing with the guy you recognize from last week is a waste of a networking opportunity.

8.    Not completing evaluations

You’ve invested time and money into attending an event hoping to learn something new.  If you’re unhappy or have suggestions, you owe it to yourself and your peers to give honest feedback.  Organizers review comments carefully so programs continually improve.

9.    Treating this as a coffee date

Now is not the time to either share your life story or recite your resume.  To a speaker who may be in a rush to another event or staff member who is busy managing the event, this is rude and will definitely be remembered for the wrong reasons.  Introduce yourself, collect contact information, and follow up with an email.

10.    Not following up

Like networking events, you haven’t made a connection until you follow up.  You may now schedule a personal meeting with your new contacts and ask the rest of your questions - but perhaps still refrain from sharing your life story.