Tips for Attending a Startup Job Fair

Networking event
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When you go to a traditional job fair, business attire is in order. If you attend a startup job fair like UNCUBED, you don't need to wear a suit and tie. A better choice for what to wear is startup casual attire.

At most job fairs, you will meet with professional recruiters. At a start up job fair, you may get to meet with the company founder and you might even have the opportunity to pitch your ideas. Attending a fair or networking event is an ideal strategy for getting a job at a startup. You'll find a more casual environment, with music, drinks, games, and networking and you'll have the opportunity to check out and be checked out by lots of different companies. If you a startup in mind you'd love to work for, it's an optimal time to connect.

It's just as important to prepare for a startup job fair though, as it is for a more mainstream hiring event. Your preparation needs to be a bit different. Your social presence needs to be topnotch. You need to check out the companies in advance, so you know what they are working on and to be ready for a conversation. As with any career event, you need to come ready to make the best impression on everyone you meet.

Here are tips for job seekers going to a startup job fair from Tarek Pertew, co-founder and chief creative officer of Uncubed.

Read Up

There's a good chance that most of the companies are new to you. Building up your general awareness about tech and digital companies will pay off. Consider the big boys, like Mashable, TechCrunch, and Inc. Also sign up for publications like Gary's Guide, a list of startup events/meetups, and Uncubed Daily, which includes startup trends, news, and tech career advice.

Get Social

You'll need a social network presence if you don't have one already. Chances are, you're already on Facebook. You should also be active on one or more of Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest. Include these handles on your resume and, better yet, link to them from your website. The company that's going to hire you will want to see that you're part of this space. If you need to play catch up here, it's not hard to do - a few tweets a day adds up. You should also follow the companies you'll be talking to - there's no better source for news particular to them or understanding their culture.

Dress Down Not Up

It may say business casual on the invite, but double down on the casual. These companies don't wear suits and rarely sports coats, so you shouldn't either. That said, you should still be put together. So while the expectations are different here, the old rule about first impressions is still in good standing. Be neat, have your hygiene in order and be up-to-date.

Think Beyond the Resume

Resumes may still be the going currency for job experience, but they're a lot less important to this crowd. Programmers and designers are better served by linking to their Github or Behance account, or by calling out their past projects that are still on the web. For everyone else: make a website that shows who you are, what your background is and where you're interests lie. It doesn't have to be elaborate, and sites like Tumblr and Wordpress make this extra easy to do.

Bring Ideas

It's not infrequent that you'll be talking with a key person from the company, maybe even the founder. There are few better ways to stand out than to suggest a good idea for their business. It's safer to assume they've thought of it, which they probably have (after all, they're likely spending most of their waking hours consumed by their business). But they'll know a good idea when they hear it - and that alone will leave a valuable impression.

Make Friends (And Get Business Cards)

You'll be surrounded by people looking for their next startup gig or looking to break-in to the space for the first time. Be prepared with an elevator pitch, so that you can give a quick synopsis of your skills and qualifications. Connect with as many as possible, so you can stay in touch and compare notes. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn make that simple. To make it even easier, make a basic card with your email, cell phone, and social network handles. These connections could very well be a future access point to an opportunity of a lifetime.

Don't Be Intimidated

These are companies like any other. Just smaller, fresher, and with a different approach to culture. Be confident in your skill sets and make sure they know how hard you'll work for them. Startups love reliability and hustle.

Have Fun

Events like these are designed to be fun, so take advantage of it. If there's music, get into it. If there's a happy hour attached, go to it and be sure to test out all the products these startups make. It's a lot better than just passing out resumes.