Posts Tagged ‘work it’

workitWalking in the door of a job fair can literally change your life.

Now of course, you can choose to simply show up and weave in and out of the maze of employer booths like a spectator – that’s what most people do. You’ll most likely leave thinking it was, “OK but nothing special, just proves there are no good opportunities around here.”

That’s the big mistake most people make, they treat a job fair as a spectator sport.

Here’s how to work the job fair!

Like any important engagement you attend, it’s important to be organized and prepared. Are you tracking your job search? Do you have a list of companies you have submitted applications/resumes to, the submission date, follow-up date, contact person and documentation of conversations with company representatives? If not, consider at least creating a spreadsheet to track your job search activity. You can also check out Jibber Jobber a free career management tool from Jason Alba. The Jibber Jobber blog also contains many fantastic resources for your job search.

The home page of this blog contains a list on the right side column (updated every Friday) of all employers who will be at the job fair. Click on the employer name to go directly to their website. On the employer website find the careers page (most have them). Look for jobs that interest you. Before you apply, be sure to check out the rest of the website too. The application process can be lengthy and often involves online assessments. Before you spend precious time jumping through application hoops, research the company mission, values, culture and philosophy. Look to see how the company recognizes and rewards its employees. This will help you identify if it’s a company you would like to work for, or not.

♥ job seeker love – Applying for a job at a company you do not know anything about or respect, one that doesn’t have an open position that’s interesting to you or within your scope of education or experience – is not constructive use of your time and likely an exercise in futility, not to mention it’s self-defeating. Let’s face it – we all know times are tough in the job market and scores of people apply for every position announced. It means a lot of rejection so why invite unnecessary unwanted “no” into your life by applying to openings you “know” are not for you?

Once you have applied to the job (yes, by all means apply before you go to the job fair!), go to LinkedIn and do a company search. If you don’t have a LinkedIn account I highly recommend you create one, it’s free. When you search the company you’ll see the company’s employees who have LinkedIn accounts too. Use your social networking skills to identify people within the organization who can give you information on the position and company that can help you. You could even send a message to the recruiter letting her know you’re looking forward to stopping by at the company booth and meeting her at the job fair. <– that’s hot!

Then, click on social networking links on the company’s site or do Google searches to see if they use social networking. Become a fan, follow and interact with the company representatives and employees. Be professional, curious and social. This will put your name on the tips of their tongues! When you introduce yourself at the job fair they will already know you.

Follow this process for every employer you’re interested in meeting at the job fair and track it with whatever method you have chosen. Make notes about what you liked on each company’s website and the jobs you applied to. Note also, which social networks you joined and how you have interacted and with whom.

Reserve a few hours (at least) a few days before the job fair to review all the companies you applied to. All your company research and notes will come in handy now…….

Create company profiles by copying and pasting important information about the companies you applied to that will be at the job fair (from your spreadsheet, database or whatever system you used) in a separate document for each. It could be a Word document or any other. Be sure to put the company name and contact info at the top in nice bold letters for easy reading.

Prepare targeted resumes and cover letters for each company.

Once you have done this create individual company packets by putting the profiles you created with the targeted cover letters and resumes clipped to them, in alphabetical order by company name, for easy locating. The best bet is to put them in a presentation or portfolio binder so the sheets won’t fall out while you’re walking down the job fair aisle <– embarrassing.

The big day!

You wake up early, or go to work, do whatever you have to… but the job fair is on your mind. You dress professionally for a job interview. A suit is appropriate. That’s it……… A suit.

Not jeans, not nightclub attire, not beachwear, or shorts or athletic wear……. a suit.

Really? Yes…..

Why? You are there for a serious event that could change your employment status, your career, the well-being of your family and your income among other important things, too numerous to mention. If you don’t make a good impression forget the interview…

Can I wear flip flops or sneakers? No, don’t be ridiculous.

You will receive a map of numbered employer booths when you arrive at the job fair. Take a moment to sit at one of the tables available to fill out job applications (some businesses still offer paper ones!) and write the booth number of the employers you want to visit on the top of the corresponding company profiles you created.

Use your map to navigate to the employers you are prepared to meet. Before approaching each booth review the company profile so it is fresh in your mind and you can speak intelligently to the company representative.

Approach the representative with a smile and handshake. Let her know you have conducted extensive research on the company and its opportunities and you prepared a cover letter and resume especially just for her as an introduction to your talent and skills. Hand her the resume and thank her for taking the time to meet with you. Try to create a brief dialog using the knowledge you gleaned from your research. Take cues from her on when it’s time to move on. Unless she leads the conversation down an in depth path and moves it to a more private area, do not overstay your welcome. Realize that thousands of candidates attend the job fair and many will want to meet with her. Ask for a business card before you move on, clip it to the employer profile and repeat the same process at each employer booth.

The sure fire quickest way to become disqualified right off the bat there and then is to approach the booth and ask, “So, whaddaya got?” Approaching the employer’s booth knowledgeable about the company and types of jobs they offer will give you a “candidate advantage”.

Go home, relax a bit from being overwhelmed and then get to work writing thank you emails to every company representative you collected a business card from.

Ahhhhh…… mission accomplished!

Posted by Karla Porter, Director of Workforce Development & Human Resources, Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber. You can read more on job search and the world of employment and new media at her blog.