The Job Fair and the Loch Ness Monster

Is it that our fair citizenry, lost in the art of the job search, needs education to help gain employment because the landscape shifted under their feet since last time they looked? Have we made job search akin to searching for the Loch Ness Monster because we have complicated it with our newfangled ways? I went to teach, instead I learned…..
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The Job Fair and the Loch Ness Monster

This past Tues­day the real­iza­tion of months of plan­ning bared fruit at the NEPA job fair where approx­i­mately 3,000 job seek­ers came to look for jobs and attend a day long Job Seeker Strat­egy sem­i­nar. This was the 20th year for this event, my 9th year attend­ing and my 1st year on the plan­ning end of it.

Tra­di­tion­ally, the job fair has been of the stan­dard vari­ety with employer booths and news­pa­per adver­tis­ing. My con­tri­bu­tions to the event in my first year as a plan­ning part­ner were the upgraded web­site & blog, social media and seminar.

There was noth­ing wrong with the job fair as it had always been for the past 19 years except that in my opin­ion it lacked moder­nity of the times, the use of tech­nol­ogy and an edu­ca­tional com­po­nent. Actu­ally, it wasn’t just my opin­ion. As a ven­dor in past years I often heard the word on the street that every year it was

The same old thing

I vowed not to allow that hap­pen another year since now I was empow­ered to have influ­ence and make change. Here are some reflec­tions on what went down and what I learned.

Con­trary to what you might think, the most pop­u­lar sem­i­nar ses­sion was not using social media for job search (it was 3rd place). The most attended was how to get gov­ern­ment employ­ment. It requires no net­work­ing at all… The attrac­tion is all too under­stand­able why all the seats were taken and the over­flow of peo­ple stood in the back of the sem­i­nar area.

The sec­ond most pop­u­lar ses­sion was how to do well in an inter­view. There were a lot of ques­tions on what to say, how to say it, how to cope with nerves, how to know if it went well.. Atten­dees appre­ci­ated hear­ing the “real deal” because the process is con­fus­ing to a can­di­date who doesn’t under­stand it. We could do a much bet­ter job on our web­sites and in our can­di­date selec­tion process of let­ting job seek­ers know expec­ta­tions, time lines, process..

Social media for job seek­ers was inter­est­ing, a lot of ques­tions on Myspace (I attribute this to a cos­mic vor­tex) and what to do once one cre­ates an account. In other words, what does one do to “social net­work”? This is mak­ing me think a lot. There were a lot curi­ous peo­ple there that either haven’t cre­ated accounts because they don’t know what to do, or started accounts and didn’t do any­thing with them — because they didn’t know what to do…  It seemed the crowd was com­fort­able vis­it­ing web­sites and job boards but they didn’t “get” the net­work­ing angle. So, we cov­ered the basic prin­ci­ples, and because an hour is not nearly enough time to really delve into tech­nique — I promised to hold workshops.

These are peo­ple who have been out of work a really long time — some go to the library for inter­net because it isn’t within their monthly bud­get. Per­haps a spon­sor will offer to help. If not, I’ll do a series for free because I can’t fathom charg­ing the unem­ployed for this.

The résumé tips ses­sion was fraught with ques­tions on what and what not to include, what style to use, how many pages it should be, if ref­er­ences are required, the nor­mal stuff… What was clearly obvi­ous to me was that the aver­age job seeker doesn’t under­stand the doc­u­ment is a mar­ket­ing piece for Me Inc. I referred them to the free résumé writ­ing classes offered at the local branch of the State one stop shop. It’s not the gourmet ser­vice offered by some of my cer­ti­fied résumé writ­ing friends.. but none of these indi­vid­u­als was in the sit­u­a­tion to be able to afford paid services.

What do you peo­ple want from me??? That was the ques­tion answered in the ses­sion on employer expec­ta­tions. You would think this is work 101 stuff — but not.. Some peo­ple think they should be able to bring excuses to work and not be charged PTO, oth­ers don’t agree sick depen­dents should affect their atten­dance or be cause for sep­a­ra­tion when it does. How to “move up in the com­pany” is inter­est­ing to many and “I shouldn’t have to so some­one else’s job” is com­mon. We need to do a bet­ter job with employer brand­ing and mar­ket­ing to edu­cate prospec­tive employ­ees on what our expec­ta­tions really are so that they are empow­ered to be deci­sion mak­ers in the process too on whether employ­ment with XYZ would be a good “fit”.

How to work with a recruiter had an exec­u­tive gath­er­ing of note tak­ers. So many peo­ple think the title recruiter has one def­i­n­i­tion and clear­ing up that mis­nomer is impor­tant. When and how to fol­low up, what to do with the feed­back, every­one was curi­ous and con­fused about these things. I’m think­ing we don’t put out enough infor­ma­tion on what a recruiter does… like it’s some secret order or some­thing. OK, maybe it is =)

Imag­ine if every­one under­stood the impor­tance of psy­chol­ogy in the job search and work­place. The ses­sion on emo­tional intel­li­gence was incred­i­bly inter­est­ing, if not too short and poorly attended. The pre­sen­ter under­stood why. Peo­ple in gen­eral aren’t really in touch with their emo­tions, don’t under­stand how they sab­o­tage qual­ity of life, and many push them away and are hor­ri­ble at man­ag­ing them. When it came time for inter­ac­tive exer­cises it was men in the ses­sion that vol­un­teered. There were some women sit­ting there with their eyes glazed over. <— Look, this is just my obser­va­tion. I’m try­ing not to be judgmental.

I thought adding a Job Seeker Strat­egy sem­i­nar to the job fair was a good idea. Now I think this sem­i­nar needs to go on a road tour to high schools and col­leges, one stop shops and job fairs in every com­mu­nity and town across the country.

If you work in HR or recruit­ing, please imple­ment it in your com­mu­nity. Or if you would like to spon­sor my road­show, let me know. I could really dig a national tour…

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