Many job seekers line up to attend job fairs. Armed with stacks of resumes and dressed to impress, they are often disappointed when they find that there are hundreds of other job seekers standing in line just for the chance to talk to a hiring manager for less than two minutes.
In addition to the booths of legitimate employers, there are always booths representing local colleges, training schools and other adult education outlets. For those who have gone to great effort and expense to be there, it can be a huge let down.
The question is, do job fairs actually help you find a job? In trying to find the answer, I found out that although they can be extremely helpful, it's not in the ways that you would think.
While many people say that job fairs are a waste of time, and at worst, they confuse job seeker and offer too many work-from-home scams or programs where you have to invest money in order to make money, the truth is that they can be excellent networking opportunities. The key to having a great experience is to change the way that you look at the entire purpose of a job fair.
First of all, don't go to a great deal of expense to attend a job fair. If you have to rent a car, or put more gas in your vehicle than you can afford, it's probably not going to give you a huge return on your investment. Unless a hiring manager from one of your target companies is going to be there, it doesn't make good sense to spend your last couple of bucks to get there. The truth is that although there are companies at job fairs who are hiring, the odds of getting a job on the spot at one of these events is slim.
Instead, look for job fairs in your local area. When you arrive, bring copies of your resume and some business cards that just have your contact information. Talk to everyone there and pass out your cards frequently. Find other people who work in your field or who are looking for jobs in your area. When you network with them, ask them if they would be interested in sharing job leads. One of the best ways to find a job is through your network contacts and other unemployed people can be a goldmine of job leads and support. Especially if they work in a different field or at a different level, they can pass along information that isn't useful to them, but could be the opportunity you were looking for.
Also, as you network, you'll find people who you can help. Maybe you'll meet someone who needs a referral or a contact in your field. Helping others is a great way to get help in return. Underestimating the power of friends of friends will only sabotage your job search.
Job fairs are sort of like speed dating for jobs. You have an opportunity to pass along your resume and talk to someone in person. If they are impressed with you, you might receive a call back. If not, at least you will have made new contacts that can help you down the road.
Have you attended a job fair? What was your experience? Please share your thoughts in the comments.