Sunday, March 22, 2009

Are Job Fairs Worth It?

Remember me? It's been a while. I've been busy with the same stuff, and am still doing a lot of job hunting. One aspect of job hunting that I've been thinking about this past week is job fairs.There's going to be one here in the Twin Cities this week sponsored by a certain large job site. I was thinking about going to it, but today decided against it. Here's why:

-- I don't know who's going to be there. The certain large job site was supposed to list the participating companies, but hasn't yet. For all I know, it could be companies that wouldn't have anything for me even if the market was strong. It's hard to do research on the attendees when you don't know who they are.

-- I might not get to speak to hiring managers. They could be there, but it's also just as possible I will be talking to an intern or someone else who is representing the company, but doesn't actually have any hiring authority. And that's assuming the company is actually hiring. Sometimes, companies attend just to collect resumes or promote themselves. Nothing wrong with that, but my time is limited.

-- It's a lot of work for an unknown payoff. I'd have to spend a lot of time preparing for this to be effective, doing things like printing more resumes, getting my interview outfit ready, researching the companies, preparing specific pitches to these companies, and so forth. Now, the counterargument is that I should be doing these things anyway, and I'll cop to that. But it doesn't change the fact that I'd be going in mostly blind. I think you need to take risks, but you also have to be smart about using your time in a job search.

-- There will probably be a ton of people there looking for work. As such, it makes it harder to get a chance to actually talk to anyone.

-- There's plenty of other ways I can look for work that would be as effective. It's 2009. Not only are there numerous job sites and aggregators, there's company websites, social media, and online networking sites, not to mention all the recruiters and staffing firms I could talk to (and I do all of these things). Job fairs are just one option of many.

Now, are there reasons to go to a job fair? Sure there are. For example, there might be presentations that look interesting or feature speakers you've heard good things about. There could be services such as resume critiques or interview coaches that would be worth checking out. Additionally, if it's a fair for a specific company or industry that you know is hiring, then it's probably worth going to.

Generally, though, I think you need to think about whether a job fair is worth your time. In my case, I think there's job hunt activities I can do that day that will be more effective.

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