It sounds like the beginning of a middle school joke, doesn’t it? It’s not. The reality: you landed your first job offer, maybe two, but it’s not over yet. They may not be the offers you were hoping for. Maybe you’re having second thoughts about the position. You don’t feel like your new job is exactly the right fit but you’re hesitant to decline without something else in place. Maybe you haven’t found the right position at all. You’re wading through ridiculous job postings and making sense of contradictory (or impossible) requirements, and you haven’t made any headway.
Up to 85% of jobs are hired through networking, and where can you go for that besides begging for attention on LinkedIn? A career fair. Getting in front of the right person makes your job hunt easier. The right one could land you a position. Here are a few reasons why you want to ignore “Career Fairs are dead” messages and how to make the most out of the one you attend.
Scope Out The Options
i.e. The job offers aren’t places where you want to work.
Tech has a skills gap and talent needs to know it. No, you don’t need to parade yourself in front of an endless number of employers, but you should understand what you’re worth to potential companies.
The tech world is currently changing the face of hiring. Considering accomplishments instead of experience? Check. Negotiating salary without consideration for your previous one? Check. A person with a self-made education sitting at the same table as someone with a fancy degree? Double-check. The job market is changing and a career fair could help shed some light.
Are you sure the offers on the table are the ones you really want? Sometimes, it can feel like you’re roped into a corner, but if you know your stuff, there are options. And if you think you can’t make it to a career fair because there isn’t one in your area, no worries. Tech is embracing the virtual career fair, which breaks down even our understanding of what it means to work. We say, welcome.
Improve Your People Skills
i.e. You struggle to find open positions.
Soft skills still sell. You may be all about the data but employers are still looking for people skills when adding to their teams. Employers consistently list people skills among the top in-demand skills. A job fair can be a great place to practice those interview skills and get comfortable networking.
Data requires a bit of human understanding to tell the story truthfully and clearly. Those soft skills are a necessary part of breaking down silos and advocating for your position within your company. The practice you get at a few job fairs, even virtual ones, gives you valuable feedback on where you stand with those skills.
You also make connections with people working in your ideal companies. Once you’ve got those connections, nurturing a professional connection could help you hear about a job posting before it’s live. Since 70% percent of jobs are hired before they ever go onto a job posting, those are critical connections you don’t want to miss.
Explore the Right Environment
i.e. Your job isn’t the one you want.
Sure you can research companies that might need your skills, but nothing compares to talking to a real, live person. You can tell a lot about a company by talking to someone who actually works there, so a job fair might put you in touch with someone who has a perspective for how you’ll fit.
You might also discover companies that have flown under your radar. Smaller companies set up booths to entice talent away from larger companies, but they may not have the resources to post far and wide to find it. If you meet them in person, you may establish a new connection that lands you the job of a lifetime.
Which Career Fairs are Worth Your Time?
The answer is a resounding “it depends.” Disappointing, I know. Just like a lot of things, it will depend on your approach. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to make the most of it:
- Find targeted events – General career fairs are cattle calls. You can’t stand out and it’s impossible to find traction. Shift your focus to career fairs targeted specifically to your field (Data Science) or position (Software developer).
- Go beyond introductions – You’re making connections, not interviewing for a job, so take some pressure off. Recruiters are people and they’re probably bored. Data science is cool and your enthusiasm can help you connect. Is it your dream company? Tell them so. Is their product the coolest thing you’ve ever seen? Tell them.
- Keep it short – If a recruiter is genuinely interested in you, they’ll stop you from leaving. Otherwise, introduce yourself, give yourself a few minutes to rave about what you love about the company, and ask a few critical questions. Remind the recruiter that it was nice to meet them and make sure you have contact information in hand. Tell them you’ll keep in touch (and how) and move on.
“It was really nice to meet you! I’ve got your LinkedIn info and I’ll send you a request later today once things are settled. Look forward to talking about your company’s needs in more detail!”
- Ask the critical question – A great strategy is to find out what challenges the company is having in hiring. They’re at a career fair for a reason right? Lori Bumgarner, a career coach based in Nashville, suggests asking “What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had in finding the talent you’re seeking?” to get the conversation going and to help you stand out among a sea of bad elevator pitches.
- Follow up! – Send that email. Make that LinkedIn connection. Get to the next meeting.
Give Job Fairs a Shot
Find this relevant? The AI Career Lab & Expo during ODSC East 2020 this April 13-14 is a great way to understand your career, learn possible pathways, and update your resume. ODSC Career Lab talks and workshops will give you all sorts of insight on continuing your career in data science. While there, you will have the opportunity to meet dozens of companies currently hiring, get feedback, and better understand your learning options.