I’m not really a fan of job fairs. We do attend, and have had some luck lately; but over the last 10+ years in recruiting that has been the exception, not the norm. What I hate most about job fairs is talking to hundreds of people who are more interested in my squishy ball swag than my company and probably have no idea who we are or what we do. I hate leaving job fairs with a box full of resumes that I will never look at again. I also really hate never hearing back from the one or two candidates I met that I could probably hire.
It was with much trepidation I dipped my toe into the networking event water. Last night I attended my 2nd ProLango event – Seattle area Career Mixers hosted by Paul Anderson, a local career consultant. The first one was an absolute success. I met several terrific job seekers and actually ended up hiring one, another is in 2nd rounds. My hiring manager likes him so much they’re trying to create a position for him. Getting ready for last night, I was a little nervous – could lightning possibly strike twice? Would I get that lucky again?
As it turns out, the 2nd time was almost as good as the first. While I didn’t find any “slam dunk fills” this time, I met friendly, engaging professionals who seemed genuinely interested in what was going on in the working world. And yes, most of these folks are unemployed. So what made this event so great?
Knowledgeable job seekers. Not one person said “I just want a job”. Everyone I spoke with had a smart, relevant, and most importantly SHORT answer to the “what are you looking for?” question. Not an elevator pitch, mind you. They were all looking to develop relationships, learn more about their target employers, asking smart questions about how to effectively apply online/use LinkedIn/stand out in a crowd of applicants.
Positive attitudes. It’s so hard to stay positive when you’re looking for work. Another thing I’ve noticed at job fairs; applicants tend to walk around like job seeking zombies with a “woe is me” mentality. Conversely, everyone I’ve met at both mixers was upbeat and a pleasure to talk to. There was lots of joking, friendly banter, and just general happy vibes. Of course it was at a bar… but I like to laugh, and there was plenty of it.
Conversations were short and sweet. Friendly banter, exchange business cards if appropriate, and move on. Interactions were brief, usually only a few minutes. You might talk to the same person multiple times, though. Especially if…
People went out of their way to help others. Most of the “qualified for Zones” job seekers I spoke with were introduced to me by people I had just met. Participants took the time to listen to what others needed and helped their new friends track down people in their industry.
I’m generally pretty jaded about these kinds of events. (I prefer to think of it as skeptically optimistic). I doubt very many people left last night’s mixer with a job offer. I’m sure most of them left with a new contact or two that can connect them to someone that can get them closer to the prize. I like to think everyone left with something even more elusive. Hope.
Ok you know I can’t end a blog like that. Look, here’s why it worked. Everybody was positive. Everybody knew what they wanted and weren’t looking at you to hand it to them on a silver platter. Nobody whined. It was awesome.