Make the most of careers events as a postgraduate

Why are there no postgraduate recruitment fairs?

Employers are only likely to attend a careers fair if:

  • They have plenty of jobs on offer for their target audience.
  • They have difficulty attracting enough good candidates to these jobs.
  • Enough of the target audience are likely to turn up to the event.

Jobs which are targeted only at postgraduates are generally one-off specialist roles occurring at any time in the year. Postgraduates qualified to do these jobs are spread thinly across many UK universities or across the world.

This means that attending a face-to-face 'postgrad only' careers event, booked months in advance, generally isn't an efficient or effective recruitment strategy for an employer. They rely on other means to fill these jobs.

Graduate recruitment fairs and employer events

If an employer broadens out their requirements to include graduates as well as masters (and sometimes PhDs):

  • They are likely to have more vacancies to fill.
  • They are competing against other high profile employers.
  • There is a much bigger potential audience.

They can also predict that each year, they will have multiple jobs to fill, so it's worthwhile booking a stand at a recruitment fair.

Should you attend graduate recruitment fairs and employer events?

Reasons for attending

  • You can speak to employers you might want to work for. You can find a list of who’s attending our recruitment events on the Careers Service website, shortly before the event. (Until then, we normally display attendees from the previous year's event).
  • You can get 'inside information' on working for an employer by talking to one of their representatives face-to-face. This can help you target your applications, to help you convince the employer why you want to work for them.
  • Employers often visit Manchester just once a year, normally for the Autumn graduate recruitment fairs and events. Even if you don't want a job at that time, don't miss out on your one chance to explore postgraduate career options in person.
  • You can get general information on jobs which might be suitable for postgraduates and possibly find contact details of those who can give you more detailed information about specialist roles.

Reasons not to bother attending

  • You’re looking for a niche job with a small employer or a job in the non-commercial sector (though some Government departments do sometimes attend). Only large recruiters who want several graduates/postgraduates go to the expense of sending someone. Check first so you’re not disappointed.
  • You want to see lots of jobs and promotional material aimed at postgraduates - you may find some mention of postgraduates but the bulk of the advertising will be aimed at graduates (which, of course, includes you). However, if you ask, you may find that you are talking to a postgraduate or they can tell you about other postgrads working for that employer.
  • You are looking for experienced hire jobs. You may strike lucky and find yourself talking to someone who can tell you about experienced roles, but don't expect that as the norm. However, it may still be worthwhile attending to get inside information on employers you want to target.
  • You are looking for jobs outside the UK or the target country for the event. Most employer representatives will only know about working in the country at which the event is targeted. For most events, this is the UK.
  • However, The Careers Service does organise some events targeted at other countries (previous events include those aimed at working in China, India, Pakistan, Singapore and Japan), and advertises other national events aimed at international recruitment. Check the target country or region before attending.

Should you attend other careers events?

Some careers events are targeted purely at giving information about a type of work or range of employers. These may include attendance by employers, but more commonly, attendees are alumni, representatives of professional associations and other Careers Service/academic contacts. They often take place in Spring each year.

Information events

  • The aim is to give you information to help your career decision-making and your applications, but they are not about vacancies and recruitment. You should use them for gathering information but should not expect any recruitment literature, freebies or to hear about jobs.

Targeted events

  • Some of these events are for sectors where postgraduate qualifications are very common, for example, our 'Environmental' and 'International Development' annual careers information events. Your School may also arrange smaller events, often with alumni from your programme.
  • Pathways - Career Options for Researchers' is a large annual event in June where around 60 alumni and other contacts, all of whom have a PhD, come back to Manchester to talk to current doctoral researchers.

What should you ask at recruitment fairs and careers events?

Gauge who you are talking to and get as much as you can from them to help you decide whether that organisation is for you, and if so, how you can make a good impression on your application.

Talking to an HR manager?

  • They should be able to tell you about how to apply, possible career paths, training and the benefits of working for that employer.

Talking to someone who's been brought along as a representative employee?

  • They may be recent graduates or line managers, but probably can't say any more than 'look on our website' for how to apply or the details of all the jobs on offer.
  • Recent graduates can however tell you lots about their own jobs; how they were recruited, their training so far, the people they work with (and whether any of them were postgraduates), their boss, why they like the organisation, how they get measured.
  • Line managers can tell you about; who they have working for them, how they got into a managerial role, what they look for when they are recruiting, what makes a great employee/candidate stand out.

Questions to ask at careers events

Questions would be broadly the same as for a representative employee at a recruitment fair (although in this case, they may not even know the website you should look at for recruitment).

  • Alumni from your course, or others with postgraduate qualifications can also tell you about how postgraduates are perceived in their type of work and how to make the most of your postgraduate degree.