Making the most of job fairs beyond college
Is there any part of your job search that you enjoy? Any part that’s fun?
I’m certain I’m on a deserted island about this, but hands down, one of my favorite parts of job searching is going to career fairs. My clients will tell you — anytime they have a fair coming up, I light up and excitement comes pouring out of me.
You may wonder why in the world this is this case. Let’s face it — you’ve got to wonder. It’s strange, I know.
But where else in the world can you find 300 big name employers at your fingertips, all in one room? Where can you meet more HR professionals and hiring managers in one day? Where can you practice your elevator pitch more times? Where can you learn about new jobs? Where can you learn more about your favorite companies — directly from the companies? Where else can you have a first round interview ON SITE?
Most people haven’t been to a job fair since college. Most universities put on a small scale fair for graduating seniors. It’s typically in the school gym or student union. Students feel nervous, and a little silly. The number of companies can be underwhelming. So, why would anyone want to attend a career fair after they finish with college?
You might be surprised, but there are lots of great, high quality fairs available all over the country. And, they aren’t just looking for college students. They’re looking for real deal professionals too.
We’re talking about big name companies like Facebook and Google and Toyota and Amazon. I could keep going and come up with a list 300+ companies long.
You should be aware though that not all job fairs are created equal. Many smaller fairs are not targeted toward specific types of roles. When attending a small fair, you may find it hard to come across any “real” opportunities.
You may also find that some of the companies with booths are participating just to be good sports — and not because they really have jobs available for candidates. Those are the same companies who claim to have “forgotten” all their business cards at home — or to have JUST run out.
You may be wondering, “Where can I find one of these awesome career fairs?”
Well, they are often part of a larger conference. Many national and international organizations have annual conferences. The conferences are typically two to three days and offer a range of educational workshops for participants. But, the conferences are often expensive and can run over $1,000 to attend.
But, don’t lose hope! There’s a solution. Many of the conferences offer a career fair only ticket. The ticket can range from $25 to $150 for the day. You’ll want to do your homework on which companies will be there, but almost always, the cost of admission is worth it for a large conference.
The other thing you may notice is that many of the organizations hosting the conferences are geared to a specific audience. And, it makes sense, right? It’s like a giant club for people with a certain educational or cultural background.
But, just because you may not fit the club’s biggest target market doesn’t mean you shouldn’t participate. If you don’t want to take my word for it, call the organization directly and ask them — 1. Do they have a career fair only ticket? AND 2. Do you need to be a part of their target market to attend? Chances are high the answers will be YES and NO.
Just remember, every company has HR staff that’s sent to these career fairs to look for candidates. And, it’s usually the same HR staff going to all the fairs — regardless of the target market of the organization.
Now, if you attend a technology fair (for example), you may be more likely to find technology recruiters. But, they’re not the only recruiters who will be there.
So, where can you find these awesome organizations hosting giant career fairs? Here’s a list of a few that I’ve been to and loved.
- National Black MBA Association, Inc. (NBMBAA)
- National Hispanic MBA (NSHMBA)
- Society of Women Engineers (SWE)
- Net Impact
These are just a few. If you’re part of a national organization, do research to learn about your national conference and if a career fair is part of it.
And, if you’re in Tennessee, check out one of the Multicultural Career Expos being held in Memphis and Nashville.
Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher where I discuss career advice every Tuesday! If you’ve already heard the podcast and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review in iTunes or Stitcher.
Angela Copeland is Founder and Coach for Copeland Coaching, a great way to jump start your job search. Follow her on Twitter @CopelandCoach for tips on finding the perfect job for you.