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Published: Tuesday, 10/23/2001

Job fairs an ideal place to start


Just as job hunters often have a difficult time finding the right job, employers often have just as hard a time finding the right employees. Job fairs and career expos are an ideal way to cross paths, establish contacts, make good impressions, and, with any luck, set a course for a successful future.

Job fairs are organized functions, open to the public, where representatives of companies meet with job hunters, often conducting on-the-spot interviews. Resumes are handed in, business cards are exchanged, and job fairs are an almost universally accepted, not to mention frequent, part of the employment environment.

Today, The Blade is sponsoring a Career Fair at the Holiday Inn-Toledo West from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is free, and participating companies include American Express, Verizon Wireless, Bob Evans Restaurants, and McCleod USA Publishing, with positions ranging from customer service, sales, account executive, and management. Recently, the University of Toledo conducted its annual Pharmacy Day, a pharmaceutical-related job fair.

In addition, the College of Engineering and the College of Business at UT held job fairs in September. According to Dr. Ellen Nagy, the school's director of career services, upcoming events include a Social Service Career Fair in January, a Multicultural and International Career Conference in February, a Summer Job and Internship Fair in March, and Education Day in April.

The university also plans on holding a campus-wide Career Expo in April, which will encompass all of its colleges.

Job fairs have become an ideal way for college students, in particular, to get their feet wet in the job market.

“The university runs two types of fairs,” explained Dr. Nagy. “One is focused on networking with possible job leads, the other is strictly interviews that are prearranged prior to the fair itself.”

But, as The Blade's Career Fair shows, job fairs and other similarly-themed expos aren't limited just to the collegiate environment. The Area Office on Aging's 55, Green Thumb, and the National Caucus of the Black Aged sponsor The Older Worker Job Fair. Clearly, working people of all ages can benefit from attending a job fair: employers are ready to hire and, in many cases, important decision-makers for the companies are already on hand.

As a job seeker, how do you maximize your time spent at a job fair? If one goes unprepared, the experience can be overwhelming.

“It can be daunting,” said Johan Rindegard, associate editor of InfoWorld, an online business publication. “It's a chance for you to shine, but there's many others vying for the spotlight.”

Donna Weisblatt, a career consultant and co-owner of the California-based Brown-Weisblatt Career Services, offers tips for those making their first trek to a job fair:

  • Invest in a business card so that you have something to hand out to an employer.

  • Bring as many copies of your resume as possible. Refine it, revise it, and make it completely up to date.

  • Compose an introduction and memorize it. While what you say is important, know that how you say it is what will really get their attention.

  • Tell stories about how you go about troubleshooting and problem-solving. Show them you can think on your feet.

  • Look at every company at every table as an opportunity.

  • Use the fair to collect information and practice your job searching skills.

  • Think positive, but don't always expect to leave with a job.

  • Dress professionally.

  • Always request business cards. It makes for an easy follow-up.

  • Plan on staying for the duration of the fair, in order to talk to everyone.

    The key to making the most of a job fair is to make sure they remember you - in a positive way. First impressions can mean everything. Rub elbows, shake as many hands as possible. You never know who might come calling. Not every job offer is in black and white for the general public to see. In job fairs, as in many other cases, it pays to be proactive.

    By that same token, experts say that being grating doesn't work (unless “you're a skilled and tactful schmoozer,” according to msucareerpassport.com, a Web site devoted to job fair do's and don't's).

    The benefit of job fairs is that the companies must be hiring, or else there'd be no reason for them to participate or spend the registration fee. Plus, even though the company representative will be meeting many people over the course of the day, face-to-face interaction is still more effective than a hiring employer seeing a name on a resume or on an application, with no face to match, or merely leaving your resume on the table without saying anything. That's why it pays to be prepared, have a brief pitch ready, and make the best impression possible. They'll remember it.

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