The tools job seekers can use for their job search have changed dramatically over the years. Today there are more ways of applying to jobs than ever before, and most of the time, technology plays a huge part in submitting job applications. Gone are the days when you would stop by an office and ask for their hard copy job application which you could fill in the lobby and submit to the receptionist to send over to HR. With job boards like Zip Recruiter, Monster, CareerBuilder, and even Fiverr for independent project work, you can apply to a variety of jobs from the comfort of your own home, sitting in your jammies. With some time spent on your computer, it is physically possible to apply to a hundred jobs in one day, if you really want to. What’s more, if you happen to know a hiring manager looking for someone with your skills, you could just as easily email your resume to that hiring manager, using your email message as your cover letter (in other words, treating it like a formal job application rather than just a casual email note). In fact, it is valuable to spend time updating your online job board profiles and keeping your resume polished and ready to go.
All of this is very high-tech, but it is definitely not high-touch. And let’s face it – it is difficult to stand out from the crowd when all you are is an online application. In the scenario above, your best chances of landing at least an interview if not a job are the one in which you send an email directly to a hiring manager. As great as it might be to apply to 100 jobs on one day, the chance of your applications advancing to interview and hiring stages are slim. Why? The convenience factor makes it so one single job posting will get inundated with applications. It is easy to get lost in that shuffle of plentiful resumes. So how can you distinguish yourself and really stand out? Ideally, you should be face to face with someone who can advance you through the hiring process.
This is where the high-touch industry of job fairs can be helpful. Job fairs happen all throughout the year, in a wide variety of industries. Browse and do an internet search for local job fairs, and even check event websites like Eventbrite. Most likely, you will see various job fair options sprinkled in a 50 mile radius of where you live. But should you go?
The short answer?
YES. Not just yes, but DEFINITELY YES.
With online job postings, it is so easy to apply that anyone with an internet connection and a basic resume can do it. What does that mean? Hundreds and hundreds of people will apply. With job fairs, there is effort involved. Effort means fewer applicants will take the initiative and do what it takes to attend and have a successful day at a job fair. You have to prepare and print out resumes in advance, which means you spend time making them look polished and professional. You have to present yourself professionally and tastefully by choosing clothing and footwear that is understated and elegant, doing everything you can to put forth a confident appearance. You have to register and obtain the ticket (usually a job fair ticket will be emailed to you with a QR code so you can present the ticket using your cell phone at the door). You have to make the commute and actually show up and get there. And then, you have to be willing to walk around, shake hands, make great eye contact, be friendly and affable, provide resumes, and “tell them about yourself” in a short and sweet elevator-pitch style. What all this effort means is that fewer people attend job fairs than could or should. Not that you won’t find yourself at a crowded one some time… but the point is, these days, it is easy to stand out simply by making extra effort in the tasks you do. Seriously. It is not hard to go above and beyond the average joe anymore. And why is this the case? Because convenience has spoiled so many of us, that generally speaking, people prefer to take the easy route rather than the path that requires effort, persistence, work. Add to this the most obvious benefit of attending a job fair: companies that are hiring pay to be there, and there tend to be many companies under that one roof on that day. This means you can get your resume into the hands of dozens of companies, but you can distinguish yourself – with your smile, your presence, your polish, the firm friendliness of your handshake, the nonverbal communications that humans can only make in face to face situations. Can you make yourself stand out at a job fair? Absolutely. How? By being the very best version of yourself, and smiling more than you are used to doing.
So if you are a job seeker, looking for that next great opportunity, take this step once a week – search online for area career fairs or job fairs. And make a point of attending the next one you can. Get there early in the day – because that shows extra initiative on your part as well as a willingness to be punctual and hard-working. If you really want to stand out, be the VERY FIRST PERSON there. By the way, when you go, do something unique with your outfit so that they will remember you… for example, dress up your tie with a silver or gold-tone tie-bar, or place a colorful handkerchief in your jacket pocket for a pop of pizzazz, or wear a bowtie for some classic chic, or wear a tie with a bold but elegant pattern, or place a colorful scarf around your neck, or simply attach an attractive brooch to your lapel. None of these accessories cost much if you buy them at a discount retailer such as Ross or TJ Maxx or even Walmart. Careful not to be over the top – you want to be remarkable for all the right reasons.