Why You Should Attend A Career Fair (Even if You’re Already Employed)

Hey there, Buckeyes!

It’s June, and that means that it is once again time for the HireOhio Alumni Career Fair here at The Ohio State University.  This event is one of our biggest and most successful programs here in the Office of Alumni Career Management, and with good reason.  In the 7 years since the program’s inception, HireOhio has facilitated the career growth of thousands of Buckeye alums of all backgrounds – and it can help yours as well.

Of course, if you are an unemployed, or employed but searching alum, the justification for attending HireOhio are obvious.  However, even if you are not someone who is currently in the search, attending a career fair (HireOhio or otherwise) can be really helpful to you in your current and future positions.  Here are three reasons why you should attend a career fair – even if you’re not looking for your next position.

  1. – Practice networking and using your “elevator pitch”

    Regardless of where you are in your career, there are some skills that you should be regularly honing – networking is one of those skills.  Rather than waiting until you are ready to re-enter the job search, you should be meeting new people and growing your network organically on a regular, on-going basis.  Understandably though, this can be difficult sometimes.  Career fairs offer an excellent opportunity to meet with people who are in a position to hire candidates and seek their feedback on the way that you present yourself.  You can practice your elevator pitch (or, 30-second commercial) and ask for honest feedback with out the pressure of having your actual livelihood on the line.  Take notes on any critique that you receive, so that you can make the necessary adjustments well in advance of your next search.

  2. Gauge the current market for professionals in your field

    Another great benefit of attending a career fair is that you can get information about what the market is like in your field or industry.  You can talk to recruiters or hiring managers, as well as other seekers, about salaries, upward mobility, and the growth of your field in general.  It is very easy to become out of touch with what is going on in the industry around you when you are satisfied with your current position, but it is important to remember that you will not be in your current position forever.  Even if you plan to continue with your current company, you will need to do salary negotiation and more when you are ready to move into your next role.  Any additional information that you can glean that will help you have an idea of what this market looks like will be beneficial to you in the long run.

  3. Get feedback on your resume from hiring managers and recruiters

    One of the biggest mistakes that jobseekers make is waiting until they are ready to begin the search to worry about their resume.  Doing this puts you at a disadvantage because it requires you to “think back” to achievements or duties, meaning that you may not remember some of the key things that you have accomplished that would be beneficial to you moving forward.  Additionally, depending on how long it has been since you last sought a new position, there is a risk of appearing dated and out of touch to hiring professionals if your resume has not been updated and reformatted in some time.  However, by attending a career fair, you can get feedback on your resume from one (or several) HR perspectives, which you can then apply to your document, ensuring that it is ready when the time comes and you are ready to take on your next role.

If you are interested in attending the HireOhio Alumni Career Fair, there is still time to register.  You may do so by visiting us here.

Hope to see you there – Go Bucks!

 

Networking Tips for Introverts

 

We’ve all been there – the dreaded “networking” meet and greet situation.  Some of us – the extroverts – often find these situations easy (or even exciting) to delve into.  Others of us (the not-so-extroverts) can find these situations challenging, however.  If you fall into the latter category, this post is for you.  The following tips, originally published on GetFive, are an excellent starting point for someone finding themselves (possibly uncomfortably) in a networking situation.

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The annual Chamber of Commerce dinner is being held after work tonight. Does the idea of attending fill you with anticipation or dread?

Extroverts love the opportunity to meet and greet, make connections, and chat with new people. It energizes them and revs them up. Introverts, not so much. Even the idea of a room full of people at a chamber dinner can cause the energy to drain out of them. Schmoozing and small talk — the lifeblood of networking — is painful and awkward.

But, like it or not, when it comes to business and career advancement, networking is a vital tool. It comes naturally to extroverts, but with a little planning, introverts can navigate those events like a pro, too.

Here are a few tips:

Do some research beforehand

If you know who might be there — other members of the chamber, say — jump on LinkedIn and look them up. See if you have any shared connections and look for other commonalities in their profiles. That way, they won’t feel like complete strangers.

Come armed with questions (and follow-ups)

One stifling problem introverts have with networking is the dreaded conversation starter. You’re waiting for a drink at the bar, standing next to someone. What do you say?

Offering a handshake and introducing yourself is a great go-to icebreaker. The other person will respond in kind. Now what? That’s when it’s useful to have a follow-up question ready. A safe bet is to say something about the event. “Have you been a chamber member long?” “Have you tried the hors d’oeuvres?” “What did you think of the speaker?”

Another way to go is to look at the name tag and ask about his or her profession. “Oh! I see you’re in HR. How did you get into that?”

Plant “hooks” in your responses

To keep the conversation going, don’t give one-word answers to questions. Instead, say something that will hook the other person.

“Where are you from?”

“Minneapolis. Yep, it’s as cold and snowy as people say it is. We don’t mess around with winter.”

Give yourself a time limit …

Don’t go into the event thinking you have to stay for the entire time. Give yourself 30 minutes or an hour. That way, it won’t seem so overwhelming when you walk in.

… and a goal

You don’t need to come away from the event with a stack of business cards and email addresses after having worked the room like a seasoned politician. Give yourself the goal of talking to three new people, and once that’s accomplished, call it a success.

Using these tips, networking will be easier. We’re not going to say you’ll learn to love it, but you can make it work for you. And that’s the whole point.

Meeting New People

One of the most common asks by clients in our office is what are the best strategies for networking.  While there are a litany of tips that abound on the internet and in other career building resources, however, often you’ll find that those strategies don’t really work.  There are a few tried a true bits of advice that do work, however, whether you’re specifically in a networking situation, or just looking to meet new people in general.  This advice is as follows:

1.      – SMILE!

 Your smile is the first thing that people see when they look at you, and it should make a definite impression.  Think of your smile as your best accessory – it is the first thing that you put on and the way in which you present it says so much about you as a person.

 Smiling warmly allows you to give off good vibes and positive energy, and makes you more approachable to strangers.  The best thing about smiling is that it is free, easy, and requires no effort on your part!  Whether you have just started a new job, moved into a new neighborhood, or are just looking to meet new people, a smile and good attitude are the keys to making friends and getting to know people.

 2.      – Remember, people aren’t interested in you, they’re interested in themselves

 Now, that may sound harsh, but let’s be honest, it’s human nature.   Dale Carnegie said it best:

 “You can make more friends in two months by becoming genuinely interested in other people thank you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.”

 This actually makes meeting people easier because it alleviates the pressure of starting a conversation with your own interesting personal information.  All you really have to do is ask the people about themselves.  The more you can get others to open up to you about who they are, the better connection you will be able to make with them.  Try asking questions like:

 ·         What do you do for fun around here?

·         What was the best thing you did this weekend?

·         Why did you decide to live in this area/work for this company/join this group?

Of course, there are many different options for this – the most important thing is that you are able to strike up a conversation.  Listen well, and add input where needed.  This allows you to not only get to know the person, but also to become a better conversationalist.

3.      – Remember names

 This kind of sounds like one of those “duh” things, but it cannot be stressed enough how important this is.  How many times have you gone through an entire conversation and at the end realized that you had no idea what the person’s name was?  Or worse, how many times have you gone to speak to someone and realized that they had no idea what your name was?  This is the ultimate networking faux pas.  In order to avoid this situation, use the following tips:

 ·         Listen!

·         Repeat the person’s name back to them

·         Commit it to memory using a cue (“Shana has pretty eyes” or “Whitney had on killer shoes!”)

·         Write it down (back of their business card is best UNLESS you are dealing with someone of a different culture – then err on the side of sensitivity)

 4.      – Finally, know where to go

 How can you meet successfully meet new people if you don’t know where to go?  Maybe you aren’t beginning a new job, or you haven’t moved – you can still find new and interesting people if you know where to look.   Why not try joining a new club, group or class?  Some options could be:  your local YP organization, a book club or other interest group, Toastmasters, a volunteer agency, or a continuing education class (cooking, photography, pottery, etc.).  Any of these options will give you ample opportunity in a relaxed setting to meet and interact with others.

All of these are tips to help you find success in your networking on a personal and professional level.  Of course, through all of these, don’t forget to let everyone get to know you too!  You are a great person with plenty to offer – so get out there and show ‘em what you’ve got!

Communication 101 – Speaking Mistakes You Should No Longer Be Making

Have you ever been in the midst of a conversation with someone, and been so completely distracted by the way that they speak that you completely missed what they were trying to say?  Their delivery somehow muddled their message for you, and the effectiveness of their words was cut short by the way they were communicated to you.

Differences in communication styles have a significant impact on how well we are able to understand and work with one another.  People often make judgements and assumptions about others based on the way that they speak, and many times we draw on diction and inflection as ways to infer and build connections with others.

While we can’t always help certain things about the way we speak – like our accent, innate vocabulary, etc. – we can avoid a few of the most common communication pitfalls that affect people in the workplace.  So, whether you’re preparing to give a presentation, gearing up for a networking event, or simply looking to speak to a colleague or superior, being cognizant of eliminating these from your everyday speech will help ensure that your message is being conveyed clearly, and that the person to whom you’re speaking takes you seriously.

  1. – Vocal Fry

You know that thing that people sometimes do where they make their voice sound like a deflating balloon?  That’s vocal fry.  It can best be observed among people who bring their voice to a lower register as they complete a sentence – examples of famous people who use this communication style often are Britney Spears and any of the Kardashian clan (see below).

Unfortunately, people (particularly women) who use this speaking technique are often perceived as less competent, less educated, and less hireable in the workplace.

  1. – Upspeak /Uptalk

Upspeak (or Uptalk) is one of the most contentious trends in communication over the last 20-30 years.  A quick search of YouTube will foster results from as early as 1994, where people were lamenting the use of the technique even back then.  While there is little agreement to be found on where upspeak itself originates, what is clear is that it is a vocal trend that is almost universally considered annoying and unprofessional.  It can be most easily characterized as ending declarative statements with an “up” sound, giving the indication that you are asking a questions instead of stating something outright.

Upspeak is often considered to be unprofessional because it undermines the speaker’s level of competence in the eyes of the listener.  Ending each statement by appearing to ask a question gives the impression that the speaker is not confident in what he or she is saying, and that impression of lost confidence (whether accurate or not) often causes the listener to lost confidence in them as well.

  1. – Crutches

“Ah” – “Umm” – “Like” – “You know…” – How often do you use one or more of these words when speaking to others?  Words like those above are considered to be “fillers”, and are typically seen as crutches that help a person when he or she is at a momentary loss for words, or is not entirely sure of what he or she is speaking about.  Often we use them without thinking, and don’t even notice when they escape from our lips.

But other people notice them.

As with the other two speech patterns discussed here, crutches can have a negative impact on your ability to communicate well with others because their use conveys a lack of confidence and/or competence.  Often people who overuse crutches give the impression that they are either lying outright or that they don’t have a clear grasp on what they are talking about.

The key takeaway from each of these communication killers is that it is crucial to display confidence and competence when speaking with others, particularly in the workplace.  If you give the impression that you are unsure of yourself and what you are saying, you run the risk of being passed over and not being taken seriously.  Be cognizant not only of what you are saying, but also of how you are saying when speaking with others.

Making the Most of Career Fairs

If you’re in the midst of a career transition, or happen to be in the market seeking a new job, career fairs can be a great way to connect with potential employers.  When done well, career fairs are a very effective way of seeking employment opportunities, because they allow you to access a large group of companies and organizations who are looking to hire immediately (or at least in the very near future).  They are a low-pressure way for you to get in front of the people who are either making hiring decisions, or who can ensure that your resume gets to the appropriate decision-making individual.  Overall, career fairs can be an excellent investment of your time – but it is important that you approach them with care in order to avoid mistakes that could hurt your chances of success.  Here are five tips for making the most of your next career fair: 

  1. – Prioritize employers you would most like to visit

Career fairs – particularly large events – can be overwhelming.  You want to be as engaging as possible, and to give a great first impression to each person with whom you interact.  However, there may not be time to engage meaningfully with every employer there, and you don’t want to miss out on a company that you have a specific interest in working for because you “didn’t have time” to get around to their table and representative.  Even worse, you don’t want to find out after the fact that your dream company was there all along and you never even knew they were in the room.

Do some research ahead of time and create a priority list of “must visit” employers.  Most career fair sites will list the registered employers on their site for you to review, and will have maps available the day of the event.  Take a few moments to highlight for yourself where those VIP employers are located within the venue and ensure that you have enough time allotted to get to them before they become the “one that got away”.

  1. – Dress to impress

One of my favorite professors from undergrad had a signature saying that has stuck with me far better than anything that I learned from his textbook:  “Presentation is everything, and everything is presentation.”  This career fair will be your first and best opportunity to get to know a potential employer.  You want to stand out – but not because you chose to dress in casual jeans and flip-flops.

Dress professionally and neatly – act as though each interaction at this event is a mini-interview, and understand that you are being vetted for your fitness with these organizations even at this early stage.  Your hair should be neat and well-groomed, your nails should be clean and trimmed, and your dress should exude an overall impression of confidence and put-togetherness.

  1. – Make a plan (and execute it!)

As we’ve already established, career fairs are often large events with a myriad of different employers available for you to interact with.  In order to make the best of this opportunity, you should make a plan ahead of schedule and then give yourself plenty of time to execute it.  Do your research and know which employers are planning to attend.  Prepare your elevator speech and how you will approach them.  Budget a set amount of time for each interaction, giving yourself a cushion in the event that a meeting turns into a great conversation or something more. Be Prepared!

  1. – Prepare your pitch – and make it good!

The elevator pitch is one of the most important networking tools to have in your arsenal.  This is a simple, effective way to communicate to any potential employer or connection who you are and what you are about.  It should be no longer than about 30 seconds, and should let them know a little bit about who you are and why you might be a good fit for their company, organization, or project.  Don’t worry – the purpose of an elevator pitch isn’t to “close the deal” – meaning you shouldn’t worry that you’ve failed if you don’t walk away with a job offer in hand.  Rather, the purpose of the pitch is to simply spark an interest in you and your work from whomever you’re delivering it to.  Be gracious, be friendly, and be yourself.

  1. – Take notes and follow up

Here’s where you have a serious opportunity to set yourself apart from the crowd – take notes and follow up.  One of the primary reasons people who don’t find job fairs to be an effective place to seek employment feel that way is because they often fail to follow up properly once the event is over.  When someone hands you their business card or company information, jot a quick note or two on the back about your conversation with the person that will help you remember them in your follow up later (unless you’re in an environment where this is considered culturally insensitive – then you may make notes in your phone or on a separate note pad instead).  After you’ve done that, do the actual follow up.  Reach out to this contact via email of LinkedIn and thank them for the opportunity to talk.  Remind them about your conversation, noting anything that was memorable for you, and then ask for another opportunity to talk more one on one when they’re free.  It will make a difference that you took the time to reach out in a personal way, and also help them stay connected with who you are and what they can look for in you to help fulfill their current needs.

The big takeaway here is this:  If you plan well, utilize your time in the most efficient ways, and are prepared to follow up with connections that you’ve made after the event is over, you will dramatically increase your chances of finding success with a career fair.  Just a little extra attention spent on preparation may make all the difference for you and your job search!

Feel free to contact the Office of Alumni Career Management if you would like to talk to a career consultant in greater detail about how you can maximize the benefits of career fairs.