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Seven observations from my day at the job fair

Today, I’m sharing some observations and insights gained while volunteering to do resume reviews at a local mall for a job fair. To say I’m disgusted by what I saw is an understatement. And I’m not talking about the resumes. I’m used to seeing boring career autobiographies, all out career confessionals and self-centered, “this is what I want” documents. That’s not what bothered me. That can easily be fixed. That’s what I do. What got to me was the sheer laziness of the job seekers I met. I am appalled and want to use them as a good lesson in how NOT to approach a job fair, or a job search for that matter.

I understand, from here on, I am generalizing. I also get there are people who understand a job search requires effort and time and energy and follow-up and more effort and some research and more follow-up and even more effort. I’m not talking to them. Those enlightened, focused searchers can stop reading now or pass the link along to a friend who isn’t quite up to speed on the fact that jobs don’t magically appear and the world doesn’t owe them a living.

Now, on to things I learned at the job fair:

1. Show up when offered an opportunity to network with business owners, employers and career people. In 4 hours, I spoke with only 12 people. (I kept a tally to measure efficacy of the event versus my time to participate.) Every exhibitor there commented on the lack of traffic and the lack of participation by local job seekers. If I were not an eternal optimist, I would have packed up after the first hour. I believed things would pick up. They didn’t. And the event was well publicized.

2. Dress the part. Do you know how many flip-flops, t-shirts (with questionable logos), ripped jeans and halter-tops (on women who had NO business in halter-tops) I saw? People, if you want a job, look the part. Slovenly is NOT business casual. If you don’t care enough to look your best, how are you going to convince a potential employer you care enough to do a good job for them?

3. Be able to articulate what you do and what you seek. I sat next to a woman who was recruiting for a local power company. She politely asked everyone what s/he did; what type of position s/he sought. One guy said, “I want a job in business”? What the ____ does that mean????? Prepare a 30-second elevator speech to sell your skills immediately. Don’t know what an elevator speech is? Google it. There’s plenty of info out there; even some YouTube videos to help you boil down skills and express the value you bring to an employer in 30-seconds. By the way, “I’ll do anything” (another frequent refrain) is NOT a job search strategy and makes you appear weak and desperate.

4. Leave your bad attitude at home. One attendee stormed over the power company booth and demanded to know why the booth, two spaces down, was unmanned. “I filled out this application and now I don’t know what to do with it.” To Yolanda’s, the power company rep, credit, she got up, went to the other booth and tried to show the woman what she needed to do and help her figure out where to turn in the application.

True the booth sponsors should have been there or left better instructions, but Earth is a tough town and sometimes the difficulty in the application process is part of the screening. If you can’t figure out how to handle something that is going to benefit you on your own, how effective are you going to be when it comes to problem solving for a potential employer?

Anyway, this woman became more and more agitated. Finally, rather than breathe any more of this Negative Nellie’s venom, Yolanda agreed to take the application and turn it in for her. Yolanda then spent 15 minutes walking to and from the mall office to turn in the application. Frankly, she was much kinder than I would have been. I probably would have trashed the application. (Not really, but I would have thought about it really hard and at least editorialized when I did turn it in ….) NO employer deserves to be subjected to that “the world owes me” attitude. Here’s someone trying to her best help and all this attendee can do is spit venom and whine about how inconvenient things are for her. Later!

5. If you’re going to a job fair, bring your resume. Pretty obvious, but I overhead, several attendees say, “No I didn’t bring my resume with me today.” Hello. You’re attending a job fair and you left your resume at home??? I have no words.

6. When offered free job search advice jump on it. I have an interview prep package I provide all my resume clients as a thank-you for doing business with me. It’s also available on my Web site for the nominal fee of $20 for non-clients. Part of my giving back to the community was to give anyone that spoke with me that interview prep package for free – FREE. I started out making an email sign-up sheet, but decided I was taking already a day out of my work week to help and really didn’t want to end up with a typing project when I got home after volunteering. (I was anticipating a lot more traffic than materialized.)

What I did instead was hand every person a business card, told them to send me an email requesting the interview prep info, letting me know they’d met me at the expo – didn’t have to be pretty, didn’t have to be properly punctuated. I wanted them to take some initiative and save me having to type in their email address. After all, I’m giving them something for nothing. The only requirement was to go home and send a simple email. Did anyone, ANYONE do it??? You guessed it. Not one unemployed, job-seeking soul took the initiative to send that simple email and request a valuable package of interview information. (And I waited six days before I proclaimed no one took the initiative.) Guess they’re too busy lamenting the sad state of affairs to actually put fingers to keyboards and do something about it.

7. Say thank-you. Not as proof that you’re polite, but as a way to network and reinforce and resell your value. Of the 12 resume reviews I did, not one person sent a follow-up email. Remember, I gave them a business card with my name and email address. If no one emailed me, it’s a safe assumption no one took the time to a send thank-you to the people who interviewed them or provided information about open positions either.

In not following up, they missed an opportunity to grow their network and have an extra set of eyes out there helping them find gainful employment. I may appear to be out of the loop because I work out of a home office, but I talk with people around town and across the country every day, via telephone and various social media outlets. Frequently, I’ll have worked with a client, hear about a job that fits their skill set and send them the lead. I won’t recommend people I’ve not actually worked with outside resume creation, but I will share job leads when I get them. None of those 12 unemployed, people I spoke with will ever have the benefit of that resource because none of them made the effort to follow-up or expand their network.

To say I am disappointed by what I saw at this particular event is an understatement. Now, when I read unemployment figures are at 9.1% (or whatever it is for this week), I not only mentally correct the perspective – 9.1% unemployment is 90.9% EMPLOYMENT – I silently add … “and probably a good portion of that unemployed figure stems for the ridiculous lack of initiative I witnessed on June 25th”. What a sad testament to the American spirit. The America I know pulls itself up by the bootstraps and makes things happen. The America I saw on the 25th saddens me.

Would I participate in this event again? Probably. It’s that indomitable Pollyanna perspective I possess. I do truly want to help others, so yes, I’d put myself through this again. Besides, sometimes, bad things are good examples of how not to be and I can share that experience with my readers. This was one of those bad things/good examples times.

For now, thanks for letting me vent.

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19 Comments

  1. kwbridge says:

    It’s a fair, right? I always wear my halter top and flip flops to the fair. Now where’s the cotton candy? 😉

  2. Will Dobbs says:

    As one of the unemployed, this is par in what I am experiencing when I run into other jobseekers. I know to keep going and get what I want. I am running into many jobseekers who are jaundiced about their and the US economic situation.

  3. dawnbugni says:

    Kiim – LOL. Guess I was the one confused. Never mind. :o)

    Will – Bless your for YOUR indomitable spirit. Agreed. It is a difficult time, but wallowing in it does no one any good. As you’ve already discovered, a positive attitude, a smile and a belief you will get what you want will take you farther than anything. Look how you already set yourself apart from the rest of pack. I’m sending good thoughts your way. Thank-you for your comment.

  4. […] This post was Twitted by JobHuntOrg […]

  5. […] Seven observations from my day at the job fair some observations on what job seekers should and very much should NOT be doing. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)21st Century Job SearchGeneral Interview AdvicePreparing For and Recovering From Being Laid OffExecutive Level Job Search Advice Published in: […]

  6. Suzy Ubry says:

    Hi Dawn,

    Although in San Diego and not able to attend the job fair where you were, I wish I could have met you and told you Thank You for giving of your time to those of us looking for our next position. And even more thankful that even after this ugly experience, you would do it again!

    And I promise that when I do attend my first one, I will do my best to brighten the day of others, like you, who are there to give of their time to help us … and if I can, follow up with a Thank You email too.

    Keep up the thoughtful and generous work and may the blessing you give to others come back to you over and over again. 🙂

  7. David Perrey says:

    Nice article and well written. I agree that a positive and professional attitude are what is needed.

    Just a side note on job fairs, how much was there for the well prepared job seeker? The ones I have come across seem to be more of a place for online colleges to advertise, with minimal representation from a company that I want to work for. And even those, I could contact them by another method to find out about openings.

    I will add I have been told of some job fairs where this was not the case, but the general rule has been that they can end up being a waste of time.

  8. dawnbugni says:

    Suzy – It’s people like you that make me go back and try to help again and again. Your kind words and sincere spirit are greatly appreciated. And you’re so right. When I give, I get back so much more. Thank-you for taking the time to comment.

    David – Thank-you.

    I can’t disagree about job fairs. It seems anymore if there is a company rep, they direct you to an online application and job posting site. As being an effective way to find a job, I have to agree, they can be a huge waste of time.

    Although, on the flip side though, what an awesome opportunity to practice and hone you elevator speech, get comfortable selling your value to complete strangers and break in your “interview outfit” so you’re at ease and not worried about how it fits.

    It is so much better to stutter, stammer and fall on your face at something like this, than blow an interview for a job you really want. Actors rehearse so their delivery is pitch perfect. Job seekers should do the same. A job fair is a great place for this type of rehearsal. You can even try different spins and different deliveries to gauge reaction.

    Going to a job fair with the intention of practicing interview techniques enables you to relax … and who knows something good may come of it. If not, you’ve polished your presentation, using all those booths attendants as guinea pigs.

    With that intention and a new perspective, those “wasted hours” become yet another opportunity for investment in yourself and finding a way to communicate all the wonderfulness that is you.

    Thank-you for taking the time to share you thoughts.

  9. […] This one person felt frustrated with job seekers after a job fair. Worth a read. Seven observations from my day at the job fair […]

  10. […] Seven Observations from my Day at the Job Fair – Recently Dawn volunteered to review resumes at a job fair. She has some interesting observations about the job seekers. It’s also surprising that people don’t even do obvious things like bring a copy of their resume to job fairs. […]

  11. […] Auftritt (Dawn’s Blog): Gute Ratschläge für den Besuch bei einer Jobmesse: Lass’ deine schlechten Einstellungen […]

  12. Cut-N-Jump says:

    I blog about the good and bad things parents teach their kids. While jobs are a part of life, it is amazing and saddening too, what parents fail to teach their kids.

    Not only are they “setting them up to fail” in some instances, they often provide them with a daily example of the same! 🙁

    Pretty sad when you think about it that way.

  13. dawnbugni says:

    Cut-N-Jump –

    Thanks for stopping by … You’re so right. Common sense isn’t so common and not imparting important coping skills from early on promises more of what I witnessed.

    I share your sadness.

  14. but were they qualified says:

    So I wonder, if you ever go past your personal feelings, and decided to look at the individuals experience.

    So what if a person came to an interview with you with shorts on – big deal.. if their resume demonstrated that they had worked several years in a professional environment in a professional job, that is all that one needs to be able to determine that they can be able to dress for success for the professional interview and on the job.

    I find that Recruiters and HR have gotten Way to personal and definitely too emotionally caught up in aspects that have NOTHING to do with teh ability of the candidates or employees; especially in today’s work environment.

    Maybe if the employers were to take the employees more seriously today, the employees would take the employers seriously as well.

    Oh, and I am coming to the table, and make these comments as a business owner in the Human Resource Industry.

  15. dawnbugni says:

    “But were they qualified” –

    To clarify, I was not at this event as a hiring authority. I volunteered my time to assist job seekers with their resumes and offer interview guidance.

    You and I agree on the fact a person’s clothes don’t determine an individual’s value. I’m just as smart sitting in my office in shorts and bare feet and as I am dressed to the nines, attending a business function.

    However, if I want to be perceived as a professional by my peers, I know not to show up at a business function wearing shorts and a t-shirt. I can “tell” them all day long I’m a professional with over-the-top skills and professionalism … as I stand there looking bedraggled or I can “sell” them with an entire package of polish and panache.

    As I said in my response to David, a job fair is a great place to rehearse. In my book, a full-blown dress rehearsal, complete with “costume” ensures stellar performance when it’s show time. Why not take advantage of the opportunity to rehearse a complete presentation, regardless the outcome.

    As I said earlier too, job fairs aren’t always the best place to land an interview. That’s where employers should be more respectful of the attendees and their time. Why drive, park and wait in line to be told to go to a Web site to see what’s available and apply?

    From a “taking things seriously” standpoint, all the booth attendants were dressed professionally, ready to promote their particular company, venture or opportunity. They took the time to present a complete package, including some with tabletop displays and brochures. It appears, these potential employers were taking things seriously and did what they could to put their best foot forward.

    More startling than the apparel was an inability to communicate value or articulate career path desires.

    True, hiring is subjective. And yes, emotions play into things, probably frequently, but this is the process we use. A successful job seeker adapts to the subjective side of hiring and does what he can to circumvent possible negatives before they occur. It’s difficult enough out there right now without throwing up self-created roadblocks to success.

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