Career fairs are one of my favorite things. You read that right. I really love them. They make my heart pound. I fill with the excitement of possibilities.
A career fair can be a fantastic way to connect directly to the internal HR recruiters at your favorite companies. Worst case scenario, you’ve made new contacts that may not immediately go anywhere.
Best case, you start a chain of interviews that lead to a great new career.
Great news! There’s a fair that’s just around the corner for those in Memphis. The Multicultural Career Expo will be held on Sunday, April 12th. The event is from NOON to 5:00 PM at Hilton Memphis.
The career expo’s mission is to provide a comprehensive platform for all cultures to achieve their career goals and contribute to a greater Memphis. The event is co-hosted by founding organization ContigoCreative, Think Inspired, and Copeland Coaching.
Over 40 companies will be represented at the Multicultural Career Expo. There will also be a diverse group of industries there, including healthcare, financial services, travel, logistics, higher education, and non-profit.
The event is free and open to the public. Both full time job and internship seekers are encouraged to attend. To learn more, and to register online, visit the Multicultural Career Expo website at www.CareerExpoMemphis.com.
But, before attending the career expo, you’ll want to get ready. Here are tips to help you prepare:
- Your resume – Update your resume with your most recent experience, awards, and education. Print and bring many copies to give away to recruiters.
- Business cards – If you don’t have them already, now’s the time to order some. At a minimum, they should include your name, phone number, and e-mail address. For a quick turnaround, check with FedEx.com.
- Attire – Professional attire is your best bet at any career fair. Plan to wear a suit, and shine your shoes. Keep makeup, jewelry, and hairstyles to a minimum. You want to keep the attention on your skills, not your outfit.
- Perfect your pitch – Practice answering the question “tell me about yourself.” Be ready to talk about your professional strengths, and what you’re looking for. This is a critical part of success at the expo.
- Do your homework – Research the more than 40 companies that will attend the expo. Look for job openings, and come up with a game plan for the day of the event.
Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on iTunes and 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.
Thanks to Alex Matlock and Contigo Creative for inviting me to be a part of the Multicultural Job Fair!
Thanks too to those who sent me messages after seeing me on the news at the fair. WMC-TV News Channel 5 featured Alex discussing the importance of the fair, and me teaching.
I presented a workshop on Building Your Personal Brand. To see a clip, watch the story below.
Do you compare yourself to others? Your accomplishments versus theirs? Your resume compared to them? Your clothes, even?
We all do it, and for some reason, we assume it’s helpful. I’d argue it is just the oppose for a few key reasons.
- First, you’re making a lot of assumptions about the other person, which may or may not be correct. You don’t see the entire picture – just the part they choose to present.
- You’re minimizing your own strengths, and assuming the other person is in some way superior to you. You have your own talents that you want to showcase.
- You don’t look outside the box for new ideas. If the best your competition did was to create a stellar resume, is that all you should do? Of course not. Just keeping pace with the competition is not enough. You’ve got to do your best; not their best.
I spent part of last week working a booth at the NSBE Career Fair in Nashville. I heard the event drew something in the ballpark of 8,000 people, and I would assume over 300 employers and schools.
From an employer perspective, every large corporation that’s anybody in the technology space was there. Companies included Google, Facebook, IBM, Ford, Toyota, the CIA, Intel, Harley-Davidson, Proctor & Gamble, Visa, and many more. Schools included my undergraduate Alma mater, RPI, Harvard, Berkley, MIT, and Notre Dame, just to name a few.
Entering the fair was an overwhelming experience. After making it through security at the door, you were quickly hit with large displays from some of the biggest companies. They were tall, brightly colored, with moving parts, and eye catching features. The automotive companies even had cars in their booths. Overhead, the loud speakers blared contests and job opportunities.
A sea of participants (mostly current students) were huddled around the recruiters at each booth. All dressed in black business suits, with polished shoes, and portfolios for their freshly printed resumes and business cards, it was an intimidating scene. These job seekers looked so prepared that anyone else visiting would certainly feel uncomfortable.
Altogether, it was an incredible amount of information to process and navigate. At times, the amount of bumping into people felt like I was at a nightclub. It would be easy to see how someone who had never experienced this type of fair might feel out of place. Perhaps they didn’t realize that the fair was ‘business dress’ or maybe they weren’t a student.
In reality though, a professional with years of experience is also something these companies needed. And, it was different than what all those newly minted students could offer. Years of experience could easily be turned into a differentiator (as could many other traits). Those companies may have had less jobs for professionals, but all in all, there were also significantly less professionals at the fair. In this case, although there were fewer jobs for experienced professionals, there was also less competition.
Working a booth for two days also led me to some additional conclusions. First, some of the job seekers really didn’t know what they wanted. Many didn’t have business cards. Quite a few were there because they’re a member of a group that attended together. That same group probably gave their members a heads up on what to wear and bring.
The people who did the very best at the career fair stood out for some very obvious, but less visible reasons.
- They knew what they were looking for. Whether it was graduate school, an internship, or a full time job, the person knew what it was they needed from the recruiters they spoke to.
- They were good at pitching themselves. They knew what they’re good at, and how to communicate it. They’d practiced their elevator pitch in advance.
- They were prepared to share their contact information. This included both their resume, and business card.
- They were confident and friendly. They made eye contact, and shook hands.
Although it helped when candidates were dressed to the nines, their attire was not the only deciding factor. Understanding who you are and what you’re looking for, and then being able to clearly communicate that message in a confident, friendly manner was hands down the most important thing.
Many of those incredibly intimidating business suit wearing participants were in fact college students. Some were even high school students. Many had never had a job of any kind before.
So, before you look around the room and decide you’re going to give up, think again. Remember that you’re making assumptions about those around you that may or may not be correct. Think back on all the great stuff you bring to the table, and be prepared with your own pitch (and business cards, and resume).
Focus a little less on your competition, and a little more on being the best you can be. You may just find you’re the one those companies are looking for. You may find that you’re the one who gets the job!
I hope these tips have helped you. Visit CopelandCoaching.com to find more tips to improve your job search.
My latest Memphis Daily News column is out, “Making the Most of Career Fairs.” In it, I discuss taking advantage of local career fairs – whether you’re just out of college, or have been in the workforce for many years.
As college graduates prepare to enter the working world in May, corporations begin to ramp up their hiring. More jobs are posted, and recruiters increase their search efforts. Even if you graduated from college years or decades ago, this can be a perfect time to look for a new opportunity.
One place big companies look for candidates is at career fairs. Some fairs are standalone events, while others are part of a larger conference. Typically, fairs have a theme. Two common themes are business and engineering. It’s important to note that the same big-name recruiters hiring at an engineering fair are often the same folks hiring for marketing and sales roles at other fairs.
To read the entire article, visit the Memphis Daily News site here.
***Please note: The date of the NSBE career fair is listed in the article as April. The NSBE career fair is March 27-28. I apologize for my typo.***
If you happen to be in the Denver area on March 20th, you should check out this career fair. Small, but good, it’s called the Ivy League Career Fair. Even if you didn’t go to an Ivy, I found everyone to be welcome.
Featured employers include:
Sand Cherry Associates
KIPP Colorado Schools
To register, visit their website here.