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.
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.
It's just as important to prepare for a startup job fair though, as it is for a more mainstream event. Your preparation needs to be a bit different.
Your social presence needs to be topnotch, you need to check out the companies 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.
Here are tips for job seekers going to a startup job fair from Tarek Pertew, Co-Founder of Wakefield, the daily publication on the lifestyle, culture and opportunities within startups and emerging companies.
Tips for Attending a Start Up Job Fair
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 & Inc. Also sign up for publications like Gary's Guide, a list of startup events/meetups, and Wakefield, a daily email on the culture, lifestyle and opportunities inside startups.
Get social. You'll need a social network presence if you don't have one already. Chances are, you're already on Facebook. but you should also be active on one or more of Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, Instagram and increasingly 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. It may say business casual on the invite, but double down on the casual. These companies don't wear suits and rarely sport coats, so you shouldn't either. That said, you should still be put together. So while the expectations are different here, the ol' 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 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. Connect with as many as possible, so you can stay in touch and compare notes. Twitter and Facebook 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.