As their parent or guardian, you might only actually be needed as a means of transport on the day of a careers fair, but you can help guide your teenager in the following ways so that they get the most out of their day.
Dressing the part
Your teenager is going to need to dress smartly, as if they are going for interview. You can help steer them on appropriate dress code or you may even have to help them out with the investment in the right clothes. Remind them that by attending the careers event, this is where they'll be giving their first impression to potential employers - not the interview room.
Gathering their thoughts
Encourage your school leaver to prepare answers to questions which company representatives may ask about them. From talking about hobbies and interests to their strengths and weaknesses, as well as future plans and goals. Help them accumulate and explain examples of instances where they've displayed certain skills and strengths that an employer might find appealing; get them to talk out loud about what excites them and what they hope to get out of working.
If your teenager is very keen on working for a certain company who is exhibiting at the event, make sure they have practised articulating why, should that organisation ask on the day. Remind your school leaver it isn't just about them and what they want, the employer will always be looking at what your teen could offer them, what they could get out of employing them.
Suggest that your teenager researches the companies and their school leaver schemes in advance of the event - this will help them come across as pro-active and keen, as well as giving them a way to open conversations with employers on the day. It will also help them form a list of companies they wish to target at the event.
Depending on where your teenager is at with their career planning, they might be able to set clear objectives for the day from: 'I just want to find out what my options are' to 'I want to leave with the name and contact details of who I should send my CV to at such-and-such company' or 'I want to find out how to improve my chances of getting onto an apprenticeship scheme etc.' By having a clear goal in mind, your teenager can stay focused on what they need to get out of the day.
Making the most of the opportunity
Even with a specific goal in mind, remind your teenager to keep an open mind and to talk to as many organisations as possible on the day. Encourage them to attend advice zones and talks so that they can pick up tips to help get their working life off the ground as successfully as possible.
On the day
If your teenager is attending the day without you, for example with a school party or group of friends, help them arrive punctually and encourage them to take a notebook, pens, bag to carry company information and even a copy of their CV. Encourage them to ask questions, listen and observe well, and to make notes for future reference.
Where you will really have been able to help is in encouraging them to prepare well.
There will be a lot for your teenager to take in, so, if you are able to attend with them, you can act as their back up pair of eyes and ears. Observe the other attendees, how they handle themselves, what they are wearing, what they are saying. Make a mental, or even actual note of feedback and observations you could pass onto your teenager. If you are present while your teenager talks to a potential employer, try to keep a mental record of the information being exchanged so you can fill in any gaps for your teen later.
Provide encouragement if their confidence fails them. Remind them that the exhibitors there know that talking to companies can be daunting when you have never done it before, and that they will be welcoming and patient. Remind them that the companies want to talk to your teenager – they are looking for someone like them - that is why they have a presence there!
Give your teenager space to explore at their own pace and allow them to steer the day as far as possible. Ultimately this is about their career and their future.
Be enthusiastic about the event, the opportunity it presents, and the fact that your teenager has made the effort to be there.
When the day is over, lend a patient ear to your teen as they relay the facts and events of the day. Allow them time to disseminate and assess all the information, ideas and inspiration they will have assimilated. Ask them if they have committed to any follow-up actions, such as emailing a particular contact, sending off a CV, or starting the application process for one or more organisations. Be there for them if they need any help and support to achieve these things.