Career Advice

Looking for a Trade Show Job? Here’s How to Find the Right One

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If you’re not happy with your current job but are feeling a bit stuck—or don’t know how to broach the subject without sounding like you’re simply in it for the money—it’s time to start looking. If digging through the classifieds doesn’t yield any promising opportunities or working for someone else isn’t what you want to do long-term, consider joining show staff. Trade shows can be such a dynamic environment, with such a huge array of people attending each event. It’s a fertile ground for networking and job hunting. 

A successful trade show appearance can lead to meaningful relationships that open doors into the corporate world. Conversely, it can also lead to new career opportunities or even that coveted position you’ve been seeking for so long. However, before you begin your search you need to understand a few things that can make or break your future in the business. The following tips will help ease you into this fast-paced world.

Build Your Resume

Everyone looking for a job, no matter how long they’ve been employed or unemployed, needs to consider their past work experience and any work they’ve done outside of their day job. This can be anything from personal projects or volunteer positions, but also includes hobbies that apply to the industry you’re targeting. For example, if you want to work for a game developer specializing in role-playing games (RPGs), your knowledge of RPGs will be invaluable. On the other hand, if you want to apply for trade show jobs in the aerospace industry, you’ll need to let your future employer know what passion projects you’ve completed. They expect their employees to be invested in the field they’re working in. It’s also helpful if you put this information on LinkedIn and other social media profiles.

Get Some Experience

There are no entry-level positions at trade shows, everything is based on experience and qualifications only. As such, consider getting some related experience under your belt to make yourself more employable by these companies and the events they host. Volunteer to work for non-profit organizations like UNICEF if you want to work for a trade show that benefits women or children, volunteer with any organization that lets you interact with the public, or apply your hobbies in an office environment if you want to work for a startup company. The best way to get job experience is by working for free, but if that’s not an option you can also consider working the cash register at your local gaming store or assisting a game designer, perhaps.

Trade shows can be such a dynamic environment, with such a huge array of people attending each event. It's a fertile ground for networking and job hunting. Click To Tweet

Find Out What They Want

Take some time and look for trade shows in the area, whether local or national, it’s important to find out what’s coming up. Reach out to show managers directly by visiting their website—most exhibitors list this information on their “contact” page (or somewhere similar). If there are no upcoming events listed, do some research online under “trade show calendar.” It’s also advisable to do some research on the companies that will be exhibiting at the event. Find out what their business is, who they are targeting and what products or services they offer. This information can be especially helpful if you’re looking for more than just one job at a time—some events book multiple jobs but require different qualifications. Keep this in mind as you begin your search so you don’t apply to an event only to realize later the position isn’t right for you once you attend it.

Don’t Burn Bridges

It’s always good practice to keep in contact with everyone you meet while looking for work, including employers and even interviewers whom you didn’t get along with well enough to acquire a job from. It doesn’t cost you anything to send a small e-mail or a quick thank you message after a meeting and it can open doors that you never expected. Be sure not to spam people by sending out bulk messages, but if you do get the chance to work with one of these employers again be prepared to take advantage of the opportunity. Additionally,  it’s good to take note of the names and faces of everyone you meet during your job search so if they ask for a recommendation in the future, you can be confident in what you say.

Be Patient

It’s not uncommon for groups of applicants to be invited to trade shows and then expected to wait around until they’re needed, often without information about what they’ll be doing. If this seems like something you’d like to avoid consider bringing a book or your laptop so you can have something to do while waiting. Also remember that it’s important for employers to go through each application carefully so don’t take it personally if your file was passed over in favor of a more qualified candidate. These folks work hard on hosting successful events and need someone who is going to help them achieve their goals, even if sometimes those people are just as qualified as you are. Therefore,  be patient, do your research and be sure to follow up with managers when you apply for future positions.

Take the Plunge

If you’ve tried doing everything you can to find a trade show job but still feel like there’s nothing for you, it may be time to take matters into your own hands. Reach out to event managers directly by attending events and talking with the people in charge, keep in contact by sending updates of your experience after each event or conversation. There are no set rules when it comes to finding jobs for these types of events, so come prepared by knowing how much money you want to make and what benefits (if any) you expect from an employer at all times—you never know what kind of opportunity is lurking behind the next corner.

Trade show jobs are a great way to get your foot in the door with companies you might want to work for later on.  If nothing else, they provide valuable experience that is hard to find elsewhere.  They often require prior experience but not always—if you’re fresh out of college and looking for an internship this may be the job for you! Just make sure you’ve done your research before applying so you know what’s expected of every applicant, whether it’s knowledge or skill-based. As long as you can bring something to the table no matter how small, there is bound to be at least one trade show that has an employer waiting just for you. Good luck!

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