Did you go to the Career Fair?

If you did, what was your experience? Did you find any good companies, pick up any good job-searching or networking tips? See any cool business cards? Leave a comment and share your experience and advice!

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5 responses to “Did you go to the Career Fair?

  1. The career fair was not anything spectacular this year. There were a couple good companies…but unless you plan on taking your bachelors degree to Aldi or Abercrombie and Fitch, the fair didn’t have that much to offer.

    • tarheelsintransit

      Thanks for posting, Holli! That’s how I felt, too. I’m sure the Aldi/Abercrombie path is great for some people, but I wish there were more local (or at least small) companies. It’d be great if UCS could partner with organizations like the Chamber of Commerce to highlight local companies. (I think they should do the same thing to help students find internships.) I think there’s a NC Chamber, too, which would connect UNC with NC businesses outside of Chapel Hill. Maybe I’m just biased because I like NC and want to stay here post-grad, but I’d love to see a greater emphasis on in-state resources.

  2. Looks like Career Centers are doing what they practiced when I was an undergrad. When it comes to Career Fairs, the key image that the organizers want to achieve is that there are “big names” present to openly take resumes and talk with students about “numerous” positions. These events are designed to reinforce the perception that students at UNC (and similar institutions) will have strong job prospects when they graduate. It is as much as a show for future students as it is for the soon-to-be-graduates who are thinking about their upcoming careers.

    The interests you have with respect to identifying opportunities with small businesses are a strong alternate strategy to apply in this tough climate. I will tell you right now, however, that they will never show up at a career fair, or likely be invited. Ask yourself:

    1. How many jobs can a single small business offer?

    2. How much time does a small business owner/manager have to organize an effective career center exhibit that is going to attract the caliber of student they desire?

    3. Given the diversity of businesses and organizations that are members in a Chamber of Commerce, how effective can they be at articulating potential career opportunities to throngs of resume-carrying kids who think in terms more applicable to corporate, rather than small business, employment?

    Small businesses do not have the resources to commit to this type of recruitment, or to review the massive number of resumes and applications they will receive. They will simply become overwhelmed. I don’t know of many Chambers that are active in the employee recruitment area for their member organizations. Their purpose is more about business development and advocacy, not this type of professional service delivery.

    To be brutally honest, from my own experience, career fairs are no place to find a career. I found that the best purpose they serve is to identify what “the herd” is looking for so you can seek another direction. They can also be a great exercise for practicing your networking skills or understanding and identifying certain industries that apply to your interests and studies.

    To sum up, it is impossible to make an impression in a crowded room unless you have complete command in the audience. No graduating senior or rookie candidate has that ability, and career fairs do little to improve your chances. They may provide some benefits for learning and observing, but your success resides with the personal, long-term searching and networking that is the daily grind of creating a career.

  3. KW, you are right on the money. Couldn’t have summed up Career Fairs at major universities any better. Nicely said.

  4. tarheelsintransit

    @KW – Sorry to take so long to respond! This comment slipped under the radar somehow…

    Anyway, thanks for the insights. When I met with UNC Career Services, they said the same thing about small businesses. It costs $200 for a table at the career fair, so small operations just looking for one employee don’t have much incentive to spend that kind of money.

    Thanks for addressing the Chamber of Commerce idea. It makes sense to distinguish a chamber’s role as one of service delivery not advocacy. I will say, in Chapel Hill, the Chamber hosts monthly events to which all members are invited. They’re built in to the cost of membership and hosted by member organizations.

    My thinking was that one of those could be converted in a recruitment/student networking night. Companies could meet possible employees and/or interns, and students could see some of the smaller businesses out there. And it wouldn’t cost anyone anymore than usual — all the publicity could be done via e-mail, for both Chamber members and students.

    Thanks again for commenting. Reading your thoughts has made me wonder what the average success rate is for career fairs, and what could be done to improve them. Are they just an antiquated holdover or are they still relevant? Is there a way to use technology (like Skype) to make them cheaper and more effective for both students and employers?

    @Anne Brown – Thanks for commenting, Anne! You said ‘major universities’ – do smaller ones do things differently or better? Could larger universities take cues from them to create better career fairs? Thanks again!

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