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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Networking at Job Fairs

By Jason Alba

Career Transition Editor

I’ve never been impressed with job fairs. When I worked at the FBI, I manned a booth at a university job fair and was amazed at the college students who would come by. A few of them were dressed to impress, most of the others looked like they strolled in for a few minutes between lunch and classes. The ones who looked more promising had eyes darting to other booths, and I could tell they were trying to get as many resumes out as possible, with little regard as to where they were dropping these resumes.

It was a haphazard effort by the attendees. That’s okay, because as far as I could tell, the effort put forth by the booth people was just as haphazard. We had no training, and can’t even remember what our message was to those who walked by. As I remember it, we didn’t take resumes, just referred people to the website to apply.

For those who thought they were going to make progress in their job search at a job fair, I think they were either misled or highly disappointed.

Alas, just like there is value in job boards (even though a supposedly low number of jobs are found from job boards), there has to be value in job fairs, doesn’t there? Here’s what I recommend:

  1. Know why you go. Are you going to submit to job postings? Wrong reason. This is a transactional environment where they are ready to shake hands and move on. By the end of the day they might remember three or four star job seekers, but not likely ready to hire anyone until they go through the formal process. Think about this as a great networking opportunity, to meet influencers and people in-the-know. Each person you meet at a job fair, whether they are behind the table or walking around submitting resumes, might be helpful in your job search efforts.
  2. Dress to impress. You might be the only one dressed up (I saw too many tshirts and shorts at job fairs), but it’s better to impress than blend in with the slackers. Don’t skimp on making a good impression, dress for the part.
  3. Have business cards. Yes, you should have plenty of resumes, but make sure you take business cards. Why? Because professionals pass out business cards to one another, don’t they? You are a professional, so have your business cards ready to hand out.
  4. Go to the educational forums. There are usually classes on resumes, interviewing, networking, personal branding, etc. This is a great place to meet at least on expert on the subject, and possibly begin a relationship. Consider the expert a power networker who can introduce you to other professionals you should know. You might also find other professionals in those classes who would be good to network with. I’ve found professionals in a job search to be great networking alliances, whose efforts greatly supplement my own.
  5. Know how you will follow-up. You will meet company representatives, job seekers and possibly job search experts. Make sure you follow up with them with something meaningful and manageable. By meaningful I mean something more than “great to meet you,” and by manageable I mean an e-mail that is concise enough it will be read. When I’m in a networking event like this, I put my contacts into (you can use any CRM) and log when I met them, any notes I can to remind me who they are, and when I follow-up with them. This helps me put our nascent relationship into perspective so I can nurture it.

Have you had success at job fairs? What preparation do you take, and what do you advice? Send me your input at


Jason Alba is the CEO and creator of, and author of “I’m on LinkedIn – Now What???” After a corporate downsizing impacted Jason in 2006, he experienced firsthand the difficulties of conducting a job search. Drawing on his extensive computer software and IT experience, Jason analyzed the job search process and developed, the gold standard in career management technology.

Widely acknowledged as a leading career management evangelist, Jason continues to spread the word to job seekers through his blog, He is co-author of “I’m on Facebook – Now What???”and offers tutorials on how to fulfill the role of being CEO of You, Inc.

Jason Alba is:

CEO of

Author of I’m on LinkedIn – Now What???

Co-author of I’m on Facebook – Now What???

Founder of CEO Training for Me Inc.

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