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Archive for March, 2012

Job Fairs: 8 Steps to Make Them Worthwhile

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

By Louise Kursmark

Job seekers flock to career fairs like bees to a hive—and why not? They are a central source of potential employment and networking opportunities. So while you’re job hunting, make it a point to look for and attend job fairs, and follow these tips to make the event a worthwhile investment of your time.

1. Do your homework. Contact the organization running the job fair and ask for a list of companies that will be attending. Research those companies and choose 5 to 8 as your prime targets for the job fair. Be aware, though, that the advance list is not the final—some of your target companies might not be present and others that you haven’t researched will be. So be prepared to change your plan of attack once you are on site.

Great advice and resources for company research:

2. Get your resume ready. Job fair recruiters will look at literally hundreds of resumes in a day. Try to make yours visually distinctive while remaining professional, and write interesting and unique content. Proofread your resume very carefully and have someone else read it as well. Bring several dozen copies with you to the job fair, encased in a portfolio so they stay fresh all day.

3. Dress for success. Wear the same clothing you would for an important interview. Your goal is to present a great image and impress the recruiters with your professionalism.

4. Start with your target companies. When you arrive at the job fair, review the attendee list (remember, it probably won’t exactly match the original). Highlight the locations of your target companies and approach them right away. Then you can pursue other companies—secondary targets, new targets, or any other company that sounds interesting.

If your target companies are very popular, be prepared to wait or circle back when the booth is less busy.

5. Be ready with your introduction. Do you have a 2- or 3-sentence introduction of who you are, what you’re looking for, and why you’re valuable? If not, you’ll feel tongue-tied and awkward at the job fair, you’ll look unprepared, and you’ll waste an opportunity to make a great first impression.

6. Use your company research. As the final sentence of your introduction, add something that relates to what you learned about the company from your research, or something you know or have surmised. For example, “I was reading that XYZ plans to expand into Russia. That sounds interesting and a fit with my interests—I was a Russian minor in college and have studied Russian history extensively.” Companies like to know that you are targeting them specifically and that you know something about them, so use your knowledge to your advantage.

7. Prepare for the next step. It’s unlikely that you’ll have an in-depth interview at the job fair. Your goal is to make a good impression, establish potential interest, leave your resume, and capture contact information. Get the business card of each recruiter or write down their names, job titles, phone numbers, and email addresses.

8. Follow up. Of course it would be great if you started getting phone calls right after the job fair! But don’t sit around waiting. Reach out to every person you spoke with. Send a professional email with details about positions you’re interested in. Personalize your note by saying something positive about the company. Attach another copy of your resume. Keep track of all of your contacts and conversations, and follow each one through to the final stage—whether it’s a “not interested” message or, ultimately, a job offer!

Successful Networking to Land Your Next Job

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

By Miriam Salpeter

It’s tough out there for job seekers. While there are jobs available, it is more and more difficult for employers to connect with the right employees, and vice versa. In a recent TIME Business article, “Why the Job Search is Like Throwing Paper Airplanes into the Galaxy,” Jerry Crispin, principal and co-founder of CareerXroads, a technology and staffing consulting firm, cited surveys to learn why companies selected one candidate instead of another. The article notes, “This past year . . . at least 28% of all hires came from employee referrals, although (Crispin) suggests the number may be even higher. If a job applicant has someone in the company who is referring him or her, ‘that is huge. It’s a game changer.’”

Career coaches typically attribute 70–80% of jobs found to networking. There’s no question that engaging with a community of people who may either refer you for positions or hire you is key for job-search success.

How can you tap into this effective way of landing opportunities? Here are five ways to increase your networking effectiveness

1. Learn to introduce yourself. You’ve heard of the “elevator pitch,” so named because you’re supposed to be able to introduce yourself to an influential decision-maker you casually meet in an elevator. The key to a successful elevator pitch is being succinct. You’re not typically riding up the tallest building in the world—you only have a few seconds to make an impression. Make sure your pitch includes answers to all of these questions:

  • What is your goal/objective?
  • What do you want to do? (Consider your audience’s needs.)
  • What impact do you have?

For example:

As a project manager and senior adviser in environmental energy [target audience], I bridge the gap between the technical community and management’s interests [problem you solve/goals]. At Company X, I developed and led a green IT project, which saved $65,000 per year [impact/results].

2. Plan to succeed at social events. One way to successfully network at in-person events is to plan ahead of time to share information, advice, stories, and resources with people you meet. Think about how you can be a “go-giver”—people love talking to contacts who make an effort to help them. What can you plan to discuss? Consider having some anecdotes about the following in mind. Then, when you meet new people, steer the conversation to some of these topics:

  • food
  • sports
  • where to get tickets for events
  • vacation spots
  • great Websites and online resources

Another important tip for networking well at social events: Try to learn something personal about people you meet. Not their deep, dark secrets, but what they enjoy, their hobbies, or their families. You’ll learn why this is important in the Always follow up tip below.

3. Prepare for job fairs. The most important advice for success at job fairs is to do your research ahead of time. Don’t expect to drop a resume and run. Plan to impress the recruiter with your knowledge of the company and hone in on how your skills and accomplishments match the organization’s needs. There is nothing more impressive to a recruiter than a candidate who clearly explains the match between jobs available at the firm and what he or she offers.

4. Network online. Networking opportunities exponentially increased with the power of social media. Don’t ignore these tools to connect with people who may be impressed by your expertise and credentials. For example, learn about Glassdoor’s tool called “Inside Connections;” it helps you discover Facebook friends at companies where you want to work. New tools for job seekers become available all the time. Consider any network where you can engage with new people online a potential career booster.

5. Always follow up. When you meet, take note if the person loves gardening, the White Sox, or enjoys ballroom dancing. Then, make a point to find a news article or blog post about the topic, and forward it to the new contact with a nice note. You may be surprised by how positively people will respond when you are thoughtful, share resources unrelated to your job search needs, and demonstrate you were listening carefully when you met each other.