Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Career Fairs

This month, you will probably notice that there are a lot of career fairs going on ('tis the season, after all) - through Wittenberg alone, we are putting on/hosting three: the Annual Summer Job and Camp Fair, OFIC Careerfest in Columbus, and the Annual Job and Internship Fair in Springfield. On top of that, we advertise numerous fairs, including the Columbus Blue Jackets Career Fair and a Life & Health Sciences Fair. So you might be wondering: is it worth my time to go to one, some, or all of these? The short answer: yes.
Now here's the long answer: Job fairs are an excellent opportunity to hit several potential employers at once, face-to-face. In today's techno-driven world of online job applications, everything is so impersonal - you upload your résumé with an e-mail cover letter (if it's allowed) to a faceless site with no ability to follow up and just wait . . .and wait . . .and wait. There's no opportunity to make an impression with your initiative and voice, nor any ability to do any investigation into the company beyond what you see from your research on the web. This is where going to career fairs gives you the advantage; you have the opportunity to make a connection with the recruiters, to talk with them about what you have to offer as well as your knowledge of their company. Granted, your résumé is supposed to be a concise, attention-getter that sells your qualities specific to the job for which you're applying, but in the world of hiring people, we all know that the decision to hire is based on an emotional response - that's right, people; it's all about whether or not they like you. You can't tell from a piece of paper whether or not you're really going to like someone, which is why having the opportunity to actually speak to a recruiter can make a world of difference.
Based on our "Tips for Job Fair Success" sheet, you need to get yourself ready for each job fair you attend. First things first: find out what companies will be there and DO YOUR RESEARCH; look up their website and read it top to bottom - that means following links and drilling down into all of the stuff you can find. This will help you to determine which companies you really want to pursue as well as to be prepared for the "What do you know about XYZ Company?" question you'll undoubtedly be asked (and a word to the wise: answering with, "Not much." is about the worst response you can give - recruiters/interviewers like to hear that you've spent some time getting familiar with the company because it shows an interest in them, not just a job). While you're doing this research, be thinking about how to format your
résumé to best showcase the skills that will be pretty universal to the jobs for which you wish to apply - job fairs don't give you the freedom to tailor each résumé, but you can make it appealing to a broader base; step two is revising said résumé, having it reviewed (hint: we do this in our office), and once finalized, printing it on quality résumé paper (several copies - and make more than what you think you need).
Think that's it? Nope - you have to wear clothes. A suit, if you've got one, but if you don't, wear something business-like (dress slacks with a button-down shirt and tie with a jacket for men, business skirt or dress slacks with a blouse and jacket for women - oh, and appropriate shoes). You also need to scope out the layout, once you're there, and make a plan of attack. Be curteous to the other job-seekers - no shoving, elbowing, or body slams. Greet each employer with a firm handshake (no limp-fish shakes, but on the flip side, no bone-crusher shakes, either), a smile, and your practiced, but not too rehearsed-sounding one-minute intro of who you are (major, experience related to the field and career goals - not your ability to wolf down fifty Buffalo wings in record time). Remember to keep your energy up and to be polite to all recruiters - you never know which one will have a job that's right for you. That having been said, even if they don't have one for you now, there may be one later, so no bridge burning or rudeness, please.
So that's the job fair nutshell. If you haven't been to one, try it! If you have questions or need help with the preparation, just come by and visit us in Career Services . . .that's what we're here to help you do!