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Are Career Fairs Worth Your Time and Energy?

I’m not sure why career fairs still exist. Many are so ineffective for both candidates and recruiters. Yet companies continue to pour more money into them and candidates continue to pour more time into them.

Companies spend tens of thousands of dollars on registration fees, travel, fancy displays, swag, and more to participate in career fairs. Often recruiters end up disappointed in the talent pool. Especially if they don’t stick around for the duration of the fair. (And from my past experience in hosting career fairs at the colleges I used to work at, many recruiters either showed up late or left early – or both!)

Job seekers spend hours putting together a resume that doesn’t allow them to target one specific job or company. They also spend their energy trying to perfect an elevator pitch that doesn’t really work. They typically walk away with a bag full of chintzy promo items and no real opportunities of interest.

Time Better Spent

The type of career fairs worth your time

Since career fairs do still exist, there are some it makes sense for job seekers to attend. This is only true however when you choose to attend those as specific in nature as possible.

This can include a career fair hosted just for a certain industry or just for certain job functions. Like a fair just for coding jobs or companies seeking coders.

It can also include fairs hosted just by one particular company for all their open positions. If there’s a specific company you’re interested in working for or getting your foot in the door with, it makes sense for you to spend your time attending their own career fair.

If you’re interested in a particular role, then it makes sense to attend fairs focused on recruiting for this role.

It’s not worth your energy to attend large, massive, “open-call” fairs which are general in nature. You know these type of fairs. They’re usually announced on the 6:00 news and held at your local NFL stadium or other large venue. They’re like cattle calls for any and all recruiters and candidates. It’s very hard to stand out from a crowd so large.

Also, if you’re an experienced candidate looking for mid-level professional positions, you’re likely to only find entry-level or non-professional positions available at these larger fairs.

How to make career fairs worth your time

If you do hear about a career fair that sounds like it could be worth your time, there are some things you need to do on your part to get the most out of it.

First, you want to find out exactly what companies will be in attendance or what specific roles recruiters are looking to fill. This is usually easy to find. The event’s web site typically lists who’s attending and what they’re hiring for.

You then want to use this information to be strategic in your attendance. Rank which booths are most important to you to visit and determine what order you should visit those booths. If you know you become less nervous and communicate better after taking some time to talk to others, save your preferred booths until later so you’ve had a chance to loosen up.

When you discover on the event’s site a specific job you really want, create a resume tailored to the job using some of the same language and keywords found in the job description. If you’re interested in multiple positions with a particular company, tailor your resume to the company using some of the same keywords found in their mission statement and core values. This will require you to do a deep-dive of the company’s web site and job listings.

Make sure you keep your targeted resumes separated from any general resumes you bring with you. You want to ensure you’re handing out the right one to the right people.

It’s always a good idea to have some general resumes on hand even if you plan to only visit the booths you’re interested in. You never know when a recruiter from a company you hadn’t previously considered wants to talk to you. And you might become interested in their opportunities. How bad would it look if they asked for your resume and you didn’t have one to hand them?

Finally, you want to stand out from your competition. You do this by talking less about yourself, and listening more to the company and their needs. One of the best questions you can ask a recruiter at a career fair is,

“What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had in finding the talent you’re seeking?”

This question makes you stand out because it speaks to a recruiter’s pain point and shows you’re empathetic to their side of the issue.

It also helps you gather the information you need to know how you might be able to help solve their problem. Use their answer to determine which of your skills you should emphasize in future interviews. Use it also to determine what areas you need to improve upon between now and your future interviews.

Replace the lame, over-done elevator pitch with this question and you’ll be a breath of fresh air to tired and frustrated recruiters.

Better alternatives to career fairs

If you still find career fairs to be a waste of your time, there are other (and usually better) alternatives.

Many companies host or sponsor local events like panels or talks on industry-related topics. These events are typically open to anyone with an interest in those topics. When you attend such events you not only increase your knowledge of the industry, you also get to be in the same room with company representatives.

These are the people you should make a point to introduce yourself to. Let them know how valuable the event was for you and thank them for making it happen. Then from this introduction, nurture and foster the relationship like you would any other networking relationship.

I remember attending a panel on a topic I was interested in learning more about. I had no idea who was sponsoring it until I got there. After the panel was over, I found myself in a conversation with the VP of the company sponsoring the event. A month later, he hired me to do some contract work for his company.

You never know what can happen at these events! Even if you don’t make a connection, you at least learn something while there instead of walking away with nothing to show for your time.

And if you do make a connection that leads to a job interview, you’ll stand out by being able to say you were at the event. This will show your genuine interest in the industry and in growing your knowledge.

Other alternatives to career fairs can include company open-houses, job shadowing opportunities, informational interviews, and more. To find such opportunities, sometimes you have to dig through Eventbrite’s calendar or a company’s press releases or Twitter announcements. Sometimes all you have to do is simply ask.

Companies would fare better in finding great talent by hosting more events like these. They will attract the kind of talent that’s serious about their company and their company’s core values. And it will be a better return on their investment of time and money.

Maybe by you simply asking a company if they have any such events will give them the idea to do more of them!

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career fairs

Career Advice No One Will Ever Share With You (Re-post)

As a career coach, I’m always responding to career-related questions with various tips and career advice. I recently received a question asking,

“What are a few unique pieces of career advice nobody ever mentions?”

This is a good one because there are a lot of possible answers to it, but I chose two answers to reflect what most of my clients don’t know when they first come to me.


Career Advice Tip #1:

If you work for someone else, you still need to think like an entrepreneur.

Why? Because no one’s job is secure.

You have to view your employer as your client. And if your “client” decides not to continue working with you, you have to be in a good position to quickly land your next client.

You do this by becoming a good salesperson of your skills.


Career Advice Tip #2:

If you work for yourself, then you need to think of each meeting with potential clients or potential investors as a job interview.

For instance, I have several consultations with potential clients each week. Therefore, I’m going on job interviews EVERY SINGLE WEEK of the year!

I know I have to clearly express the benefits of my skills as a career coach.


Determine Fit

In either scenario, you not only need to sell your skills.

You also need to treat the situation as a two-way street. You need to find out if your next job or your next client is going to be a good fit for you.

This is why I always suggest job seekers ask their own questions during a job interview.

These questions should be ones to help them determine if the company (i.e. “the client”) is who they really want to spend 40+ hours a week with for the next several years.

**Check out The One Surprising Tip That Guarantees a Good Interview for sample questions to ask when being interviewed.***


Be Selective

For me personally as a business owner, I’m selective in who I take on as clients.

Therefore, not only do I present the benefits of my services and make sure they’re a good fit for the potential client’s goals, but I also ask questions to find out if they’re the type of client I’ll want to work with.

I start with questions in my intake form and ask additional questions during the initial consultation.

I’m looking to see how serious the person is about my coaching program.

I’m also looking for someone with a teachable spirit, an open-mind, respect for others, courtesy, and professionalism.

Someone who doesn’t possess these qualities is not a good fit for me or my company’s mission or programs.


You need to be selective too.

If you’re a job seeker with multiple job offers, be selective.

If you’re an entrepreneur with multiple potential clients, be selective (even when you feel like can’t afford to be!).

Here’s how.

Before walking into an interview or a meeting, take some time to do an inventory of:

  1. your skills and strengths,
  2. how you uniquely demonstrate those skills and strengths,
  3. the benefits of your skills and strengths,
  4. your needs and wants,
  5. your deal-breakers,
  6. and the questions to determine any potential deal-breakers or to determine if the other party can meet at least 60% of your needs and wants (because you’ll rarely find a case that meets 100% of them! — BE REALISTIC!).

Choose only those opportunities that are at least 60% compatible with your inventory.

Keep in mind also numbers 1–3 will give you leverage to ask for numbers 4–5.

Following this advice will help you develop good habits and preparedness for those times when you find yourself at a career crossroads.

career advice

Sunday Inspiration: Have You Had a Wake-Up Call in Your Life?

Welcome to “Sunday Inspiration,” a bi-weekly devotional for those seeking spiritual encouragement in the pursuit of their passions. Each post comes from an outside resource (as referenced). I hope these posts will inspire and motivate you in your life and career in addition to our weekly original blog posts. Enjoy!

by Matthew Kelly

Do you like your life? It’s one of those sort of basic questions we don’t really think about that often. It’s an easy question never to think about. Very often I think we’re sort of just sleepwalking through life. We’re not aware of the incredible people, experiences, opportunities that we’re constantly facing, one after another.

One of the things the Gospel does is, it’s constantly waking us up. Constantly trying to wake us up, constantly trying to put things in perspective. And as we awaken, we become more and more grateful. And one of the ways to measure how awake we are is, how grateful are we? Because when we’re aware, when we’re awake, we tend to be more grateful. But the question “Do you like your life?” is one worth thinking about, because it does wake us up. It does heighten our awareness pretty quickly.

If you don’t like your life, what don’t you like about it? And what are you gonna do about it? And can you do it on your own, or do you need the help of other people in your community? Can you do it on your own, or do you need the help, cooperation, collaboration of people in your family?

And can you do it on your own? The answer, of course, is no, because all is grace. Everything comes down to grace. And so we can’t do it on our own because we need God. We might need other people in our community, we might need other people in our family, but we definitely need God. We need God’s grace. We need God’s fuel. We need God’s cooperation, collaboration, direction, coaching, encouragement. We need God.

So, do you like your life? If you don’t like your life, what are you going to do about it? Jesus said, “I’ve come so you might have life to the fullest.” He wants you to have that kind of life. If you don’t have that kind of life, it’s time to sit down with Jesus and have a chat.

by Lauren Fedders

Before [my current job], I worked for a publicly traded company with a popular brand and product. I worked really hard at that job, and I loved the people there, so when there were rumors there might be layoffs in my department, I was really worried. When I did get laid off, I was surprised to find that I wasn’t disappointed, heartbroken, or panicked like I really thought I would feel. In fact, I left feeling pretty excited and energized.

If getting laid off from your job and feeling relieved about that, or excited about that, isn’t a wake-up call, I don’t really know what is. I took time to reflect and I came to realize that, at that job, I was just going through the motions and I was sleepwalking through my day, my week, and my year. I took time to travel, and to pray, and I was really intentional about where I decided to work next.

My wake-up call led me to a career that challenges me and allows me to work for a place where I’m truly passionate about what I’m doing. So, when have you had a wake-up call on your life?

Source: Best Lent Ever, A Wake-Up Call

The Secret to Answering Behavioral Interview Questions (Re-Post)

“Tell me about a time when…”

UGH! Behavioral interview questions.

No job seeker enjoys answering these questions. Myself included.

They’re just as dreaded as the “What’s your greatest weakness?” question.

I can remember back in grad school doing my first mock interview with the career center on campus. It was very intimidating, even more so than any real interview I’ve ever had.

They recorded it which of course was even more horrifying. And I was really bad at answering the behavioral interview questions.

It was actually this experience and what I learned from it that made me decide to go into career advising.

A year later I was working as an intern in the same career center. Eventually I became the director of a college career center and then started my own career coaching business.

You have more experience than you think

I remember my mock interview like it was yesterday.

A few years ago I found the video and watched the cringe-worthy performance (through my fingers). I’d used the same example for every behavioral question because I thought I didn’t have any other “real” experience to pull from.

After all, I was just a lowly graduate assistant with only one assistantship under my belt.

But now I realize this wasn’t true.

I could’ve pulled from so many other experiences for more variety of answers:  my part-time jobs from college, my work as an orientation leader at my undergrad, my leadership role in my student organization, my class projects. I could’ve even pulled from my work on my passion projects.

The tried-and-true method vs. modern experience

The formula for how to answer behavioral interview questions hasn’t changed much since my grad school days.

But the way people work has, therefore giving job seekers a new way to sell themselves in an interview.

Here’s what I mean. When answering a behavioral interview question, you always want each answer to follow a method similar to the “CAR” method:

  • C:  State the CHALLENGE you faced.
  • A:  Describe the ACTION you took.
  • R:  Indicate the RESULTS of your action.

But unlike what you may have thought in the past, your examples don’t have to all come from traditional job experiences.

Today, people have side-hustles, freelance assignments, passion projects, and greater access to creative pursuits.

These bodies of work may be very different, but they all demonstrate your creativity, project management skills, and problem-solving skills. All things employers seek in potential employees.

The secret to answering behavioral interview questions

The secret to answering behavioral interview questions perfectly is to gather relevant examples from ALL your sources of experience (paid, unpaid, volunteer, stuff done for fun, etc.).

Then, tell a single interesting story for each question that connects the dots for your listener.

Show how your “soft skills” used on your own projects will benefit the company on their projects. Hard data (quantifiable results) and testimonials (qualitative results) will drive home your points, so always include them in each answer.

Also, anticipate further questions. When practicing your examples, listen for holes in your information triggering a need for clarification or more details.

A friend or a career coach is more likely to help you recognize those holes, so get assistance.

By addressing those areas right away, the interviewer won’t have to keep probing. You’ll be a hero because you made their job easier by providing all the important info without being asked or reminded to.

The best way to prepare

There’s no way to prepare for every commonly asked behavioral interview question. There are just too many.

The only way to really predict which ones you’ll get is to look on Glassdoor to see if there are any interview questions listed for your particular job opening. However there’s no guarantee they’ll ask the same questions this time around.

Instead, the best use of your time and energy is to look at the list of required skills in the job ad, and come up with a different story for when you’ve previously performed each skill. This is more manageable since this list is finite.

Always choose stories that show your success in performing the skill.

By focusing on the list of skills, you’ll have enough examples to use as answers for the unexpected questions. Most importantly, you’ll be able to connect those dots from your past experience to your future experience.

Don’t forget to use the CAR method when drafting your stories. Doing so keeps your stories organized with a beginning, middle, and end.

Pulling from ALL your experience is a great strategy for someone who has a lengthy gap in their employment history.

It’s also a good approach for recent grads with little to no professional experience. Click here to see how this has worked successfully for Tanner Christensen who landed a job as a product developer at Facebook with very little experience.

For more job interview tips, sign up for the on-demand program, Steps to Acing the Interview and Reducing Your Interview Anxiety. You’ll learn how to answer other commonly asked interview questions, questions you should be asking, and more, resulting in more job offers!

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How to Avoid Stereotypes That Hurt Your Child’s Career

Millennials and Gen Z’ers sometimes get a bad rap for not having the ability to appropriately handle unpleasant obstacles.

But there’s one millennial who is defying all the stereotypes. Her name is Kristen Hadeed. She’s the owner of a successful business she started while in college which now employees over 600 people. She’s also the author of the book Permission to Screw Up: How I Learned to Lead by Doing (Almost) Everything Wrong.

Failing Successfully

I recently got to hear Kristen speak about how her business’s success was built on failure. In her talk, she credits her parents for her ability to fail successfully.

What she means by this is she was raised in a home where her parents believed tough love is sometimes necessary for success.

One particular example she shared is when in high school she went to her father for help with her calculus homework. He said,

“I can’t help you. Do you know why? I can’t be there when you’re taking your test. If you can’t answer the question now, how are you going to be able to answer it during the test? You need to figure out where you’re stuck and go ask your teacher about it.”

She said she hated him for it, but still felt loved by him. She followed his advice and ended up with the highest grade in her calculus class.

It was this tough love lesson that taught Kristen how to solve her own problems and grow as a person and businesswoman.

As a result, she uses this same tough love approach to successfully lead her employees who 90% are college students. This approach instills confidence in her employees even when they screw up royally, and give them ownership over their successes.

Do you fit the “lawnmower parent” stereotypes?

Not only does Kristen defy the stereotypes of millennials. Her parents defy the stereotypes of parents of millennials.

Instead of being “lawnmower parents” who mow down every obstacle their child might face, they allowed her opportunities to learn how to deal with obstacles and failure.

They didn’t “over-help” her, as she says.

But she sees the negative effects of over-helpful parenting in many of the college students who work for her.

She sees their lack of confidence and lack of belief in their own skills.

My colleagues and I see it too in the younger generations we work with. And this is often the cause of their bad rap.

My colleagues and I see firsthand how so many “lawnmower parents” are plowing their way through their child’s career.

Specifically, I experience parents of people as old as 30 calling me wanting to sign their son or daughter up for my career coaching services because their “child” isn’t happy in their current job. (Sometimes they call me without their son or daughter knowing it!)

A colleague of mine who’s on the other side of the table in HR and recruiting experiences it too. She witnesses parents who try to involve themselves in their “child’s” interview process or negotiate salary for their “children.”

(I use quotes around “child” and “children” because these are actually adults I’m referring to.)

My tough love for you

I’m all for helping people who aren’t happy in their current job find something better. That’s what I do!

BUT, I won’t take on a client who cannot take the initiative to contact me directly.

And my colleague says she will never hire a candidate whose parents get involved in the interview process.

So if this is something you as a parent are doing, stop it now before you further hurt your adult child’s chances of landing a job.

If you’re the “child” whose parents are doing this, don’t allow it! Your career is at stake!

This is my tough love to those who are or have lawnmower parents!

It’s not my business who’s paying for it

Now some parents will say to me, “Well I’m calling for my son because I’m the one who’ll be paying for your services!”

It’s not my business who’s paying for it. But it is my business who I’ll be working with. And I need to talk to them. Not their parents.

I have a client who’s still a college student. I can’t say for sure if she got the money for the career coaching services from her parents or not because her parents stayed out of the situation. She took the initiative to reach out to me on her own. She knew her goals and knew what she wanted to accomplish with the coaching.

This is why she’s now my client. These are the type of clients I want to work with. It has nothing to do with their age and everything to do with their initiative.

If a client can’t take the initiative to contact me directly and complete my simple intake form on their own, they’ll never be able to do the homework required in my coaching program.

There have been a couple of cases where I have taken a client whose parents called me, only because I knew the parents personally. And even then I regretted it.

Their children were the clients who either had a bad attitude throughout the coaching process, or they didn’t use all the sessions their parents had paid for. To me this is a waste of their parents’ money, and I never want anyone to feel like they’ve wasted their money with me.

Another way “lawnmower parenting” can hurt your child’s career

I have a millennial client right now who’s great! Her father has stayed out of her career coaching process.

However, she tells me he occasionally involves himself in her networking efforts without her permission.

And he does so in the wrong ways. He does all the things I teach her NOT to do, therefore undoing much of what she and I have already worked on.

How to help your son or daughter the right way

I understand parents want to help their children make connections that can lead to good jobs. And job seekers should begin their networking efforts with who they know, including their parents.

But, if you’re a parent wanting to help in this way, I suggest first brushing up on your own networking skills with my on-demand networking course and reading my free blog posts on networking etiquette.

Don’t assume you already know everything about networking. Especially if it’s been a while since the last time you’ve had to look for a job. Even my adult clients who happen to have millennial children first come to me not knowing how to network in today’s job market.

Next, I suggest not to put pressure on your contacts when making introductions. Never make them feel obligated to talk to your son or daughter. No one likes to be on the receiving end of being put on the spot.

Instead, ask if they’re willing and if their schedule allows to talk with your son or daughter.

If they say no, thank them and maybe ask if they know of anyone else they feel comfortable recommending to talk to your son or daughter.

If they say yes, give your son or daughter their contact info and leave it up to your child to reach out to your contact.

Then, you can help your child from behind the scenes. Like helping him or her think of appropriate questions to ask your contact. And how to respect your contact’s time. Teach them this type of etiquette they can apply throughout their careers.

But do not make the arrangements for your son or daughter. Do not speak for them. By all means never attend the meeting with them. And do not nag them about whether or not they made the call. Give them ownership over their choices by letting it be their choice to call your contact or not.

Instead of being known as a “lawnmower parent” who mows down your child’s obstacles, defy the stereotypes and be the parent who builds up opportunities for your son and daughter to learn how to take initiative and ownership over their career.

I guarantee this will make them more successful than you can imagine!

“Take the bubble wrap off and let them walk into their mistakes.” Kristen Hadeed

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