The last job fair I went to had approximately 30 employers and 10,000 applicants. Not a good ratio. Last night I went to a “job social” and it had approximately the same number of employers. It was much better on the applicant side, but it felt a lot like those bullet trains in Japan that have people with the job of pushing people inside the doors so they can close. It was crowded!! As much as anything, it felt like an old fashioned “mixer” from high school.
I got there early, which seemed to be a pretty good strategy as it gave me an opportunity to identify the recruiters and chat with a couple in a non-pressured way. Find out what they were looking for and how their businesses were doing.
In the end, I went away thinking that expectations and goals were the critical element in getting value from the social. From the job fairs as well.
From a strategy point of view, finding a time when a conversation can be had with a recruiter has to be the goal. I’m going to guess that very few people were hired from the job fair I went to. Too many folks! The recruiters didn’t have a chance to even screen, let alone evaluate. The job social had ebbs and flows. Getting there early was useful. I didn’t stay late, but it might have had opportunities as well. Being fashionably late would eliminate the opportunity for value…. At least as far as the recruiters is concerned.
Which leads to another possible set of goals for the social and that’s networking. Just meeting others on the job search. Connecting with them and developing enough of a relationship to reduce our isolation. Maybe it’s getting their card at the social and following up. Maybe it’s migrating the conversation out of the social. Whatever it is, we all need to understand our own competence and a very important part of that is the reflection we see when we meet others going through this craziness called a job hunt. Increasing your network has so many benefits, it’s just amazing. My current understanding of the job market is that something like 3/4s of all hires come through networking. My guess is that when we talk about good fits, jobs we want to keep for a long time, then the number is much higher.
Back to the “mixer” metaphor, when I went to those, on a good night, I would make a few friends. Some of those might become more, but it sure didn’t happen at the mixer, it happened because of the follow up.