Photo courtesy of U.S. Army/Nancy Rasmussen

How to get the most from a job fair

With the start of a new year and the impending surge in hiring, it's essential that you prepare yourself to be a standout star at both military and nonmilitary job fairs. Here are some "rules of the road" to optimize your success at these events.

-Arrive early, so that you're one of the first to enter the event.

-Work the room to your advantage by starting at the back. Most people stop at the first booth, working their way from front to back. Do the exact opposite and you'll be amazed at the results: no long lines, and employers anxiously waiting to talk to you.

-If attending a corporate job fair, dress as a civilian with a suit and tie or, at a minimum, a sport coat and slacks. Let prospective employers see that you're already "one of them." If attending a military job fair or an event with many defense contractors, military attire is appropriate. Match the audience you want to attract.

-Write and design a résumé rich in achievements, keywords and qualifications that support your career objectives. Résumé-writing is not simply a process of rehashing your past experience. You want to leverage that experience to support your current goals.

-Print your résumé on colored paper, so that it will stand out from the hundreds on plain white paper. Consider ivory, light gray, light blue or something else conservative.

-Do not expect to get a job. Job fairs are meet-and-greet events, so do your best to meet as many people as possible. Get contact information so that you can follow up with them immediately after the event.

Wendy Enelow is co-author of "Expert Résumés for Military-to-Civilian Transitions" and "Executive Résumé Toolkit."