When you’re out of work, you suddenly find many friends and family who are willing to share their ideas with you about how to get a job. In their attempts to be helpful, people who care about you will often pass on every single tip or nugget they hear about a job opportunity—leaving it up to you to sift through the information in order to find something you can actually use.
In many areas of the U.S., the issue is not a lack of available jobs, but a lack of time for you as the job seeker to complete a thorough application for each position that interests you. Therefore, you have to be strategic in how you use your time during your job search. Job fairs, in particular, can be a waste of time if you don’t do your homework before you decide to attend.
There are two important questions to ask any time you see a job fair being held in your area:
1) Do any of the companies at this job fair pay people to do what I do?
If your role at your company is something like IT or accounting that’s transferable to a lot of different settings, then chances are high that you‘ll find a company at the job fair that could use your services. However, the more specialized your skill set, the more cautious you need to be about where you spend your time looking.
2) Are the companies at the job fair actually hiring?
You may not be able to figure this out on your own with 100% certainty. However, looking at the employment opportunities on the companies’ Web sites can give you an idea of whether they actually have open positions. This is an election year, and many local politicians are hosting job fairs in order to show their constituents that they care about the economy. However, just because a company shows up doesn’t mean they’re hiring—or, they may just hand you a card with their Web site address and tell you to apply there. This is actually quite common at job fairs now – a large number of employers will just direct you to their website. I suggest to save time and avoid this pitfall you view the ad to see what companies will be at the job fair then go online and apply on their website for the applicable opportunities.
If your research shows you that a job fair will include companies that are currently hiring people to do what you do, then the plus side to attending the fair is that it offers a fantastic opportunity for face-to-face contact with a potential employer. Once you decide to attend a fair, do it the right way: professionally dressed, resume and business cards in hand, with a name tag and a friendly smile. Get there at least an hour early so you can be one of the first people in the door—before all the job seekers’ faces start running together!
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