Job Market


Like many college students, I have attended several career/internship fairs with the hopes of impressing the heck out of an employer and landing a great position. I recently had the opportunity to experience the other side of a career fair, from a recruiter’s perspective.  Thanks to this experience, I will never again approach a career fair feeling stressed out or anxious—and you shouldn’t either. The next time you prepare to make a case for yourself to a potential employer at a career fair, keep these five things in mind.

5 New insights from an employer’s perspective:

1. Your pitch to an employer is about yourself, and what in the world do you know better than YOU? Talking to a recruiter about the one thing you are truly the expert on should be a piece of cake! In comparison, a recruiter doesn’t know nearly as much about their own organization as you do about yourself, and can sometimes stumble over questions that they had not anticipated or do not know the answer to. Be prepared. Make sure you know what you want to say about you, and relate it to how you can add value to the recruiter’s organization.

2. While you (the prospective employee) get to walk around and learn about all of the employers there, a recruiter has to relay the same information again, again, and again. Answer the same questions over, and over, and over. While it is interesting and rewarding to meet new people and learn about their background, the repetitive nature of recruiting can get old fairly quickly. Bring some courtesy and a smile with you to each stop. Show your appreciation, and you’ll stand out from the crowd. 

3. Talking constantly for a few hours straight is no easy task. As a student or prospective employee you have the option to take a few minutes between each meeting to compose yourself, get a drink of water, and catch your breath. In contrast, there may be very little time for a company’s representative to do any of those things. This is especially true if that company presents a great opportunity for those attending the fair. Be aware of the recruiter’s ‘signals.’ Treat him or her like person; not like a microphone.

4. The specific things you are looking for in an internship or job are often more specific than the criteria an employer is looking for in you. While I had always approached career fairs with the mindset that it is my responsibility to present myself to a company, having the opportunity to view the situation from the other side proves that it is really a two-way street. Recruiters have to make a pitch to you in the same way that you do to them; they want you to apply for a position, otherwise they wouldn’t be there! Remember that you and the recruiter are on equal footing, and you will have more comfortable interactions. Have a real conversation. It just might make the connection that your competition missed!

5. Most career fairs provide a handout or booklet with information about the companies for attendees to look over beforehand. You have the advantage of knowing about them, which puts you in a great position to prepare for the meeting. On the other hand, a recruiter knows virtually nothing about you. Imagine trying to learn as much as you can about someone, while also trying to relay as much information about your company as you can, as well as answer any questions that may arise, all in a matter of minutes. Then, picture doing that constantly for a few hours. Ahh! Overload! Everybody will have a resume. Improve your chances by adding a cover page with just 4 or 5 of your best value points.

My name is Kim.

I’m one of the interns working at The Gabriel Institute and this is my last summer before I have to “go big, or go home,” and the last thing I want to do is go home.

Don’t get me wrong, my parents are lovely, and there is something wonderfully comfortable about a place you grew up in for 20 years. However, I come from a small town in Upstate New York, with an even smaller economy. (Not to mention I am also 21 and no longer am amused by the “what time are you going to be home” question.)

From high school well into my college years, finding a summer job was never a problem. All the restaurants were seasonal, and loved if you were only looking to work May through August. But those are restaurant jobs, and I decided to go to school for Communications and Journalism, not restaurant management.

One of my good friends (who lives in Philadelphia) was listening to me whine one day about not wanting to work in a restaurant all summer: how it wouldn’t get me ahead for graduation next year; how my internship in Washington D.C. fell through; how there was no one hiring interns back home, and an entire list of other things I was dreading about the summer. His only response was “Come live with me in Philly.”

Within days I decided to do it; to turn into a grownup and move out. I packed my bags and drove five hours with nothing but determination to make it the most fun and productive summer ever. It was my time to “go big.”

When I moved down here two months ago I had nothing. I knew a handful of people. I was sharing a room with my friend, and barely had a dresser-sized space in the closet in which to put all of my belongings.

I was unhappy with my money situation, my professional inexperience, and my living quarters. So I did something about it.

My determination for a job or internship was first on my to-do list. I put a few applications in at some restaurants, figuring it would be a very good plan B. I then signed up with an internship search website (www.internships.com) and within days had an interview for The Gabriel Institute in center city.

Two of the restaurants called me back for interviews, one of which I accepted.

I took some down time from job searching (praying both interviews would follow through) to see an old friend from my freshman year of college. She mentioned that one of her roommates just moved out and they were looking for someone to fill the spot to keep rent down. Bingo! A week and a half in Philly and things were going my way.

So now, two months later, I live with three people, two of whom are strangers, and one who is a gross slob, but I have my own space for when I need it. I didn’t originally want to work in another restaurant, but I have made a ton of new friends that I hang out with on a regular basis, and it’s great money. My internship is unpaid, but I enjoy the work and it’s giving me something wonderful to put on my resume, and I like it.

So in hindsight I’d say I did pretty well.

The point is folks; there are always ups and downs. You can never have EVERYTHING that you want, and you can never be completely satisfied with everything in your life. The difference between people who succeed in this world and those who don’t can be as simple as reorganizing and changing your situation until the only “bad” things are the little things.

Make your “big picture” one that you can stand to look at every day.

Ahoy, and goodbye.  This will most assuredly be my last blog (well, not really, but go with me here), as I’ve just discovered that marketing is not my destiny.  No, my fate lies beyond the world of cubicles, beyond suits and briefcases, beyond land even.  You see my friends, the stars have aligned and shown me my true path: shipmate.

By now you’re probably wondering two things; “what is he talking about” and “why doesn’t The Gabriel Institute randomly drug test interns?”  Sadly, this is not the work of LSD or any other illegal substance, but rather a career test (which shall remain nameless).  Earlier today I was researching some of the options people can employ when attempting to choose a career path.  I was led almost immediately to the site-that-shall-not-be-named, asked three questions, and voila, sailor.  Now I have nothing against sailors or the occupation itself, but the idea of me as a sailor is beyond ridiculous.  But alas, it is my fate, so sail I shall (again, not really).

[If you did not read the post loudly with the swashbuckling accent of the Spongebob opening narrator, I ask that you kindly reread it in such a manner.]

Internships in today’s economy are getting harder and harder to come by.  As a result, many college students are turning to less legitimate job sources, even… Craigslist [cue dramatic music].  Every time a friend tells me that they’re looking for jobs on Craigslist, I am reminded of my first experience with the site.

I was looking for a marketing internship, and sure enough, Craigslist had one.  I applied and went for an interview.  The owner gave a vague description of his start-up marketing company that he ran out of his parent’s house.  The internship would be from home and sounded cool enough, so I took it.  I received no instructions or training, forcing me to ask questions every step of the way.  After a few weeks, I stopped receiving emails.  I immediately jumped to the conclusion that I had been a terrible marketing intern.  What else was I supposed to think?

Looking back, I can see two problems, neither one of which was my own ineptitude.  Firstly, I was working for a guy who thought it was appropriate to cold shoulder an intern.  More importantly, neither of us was aware of our Role.  I now know that I am a Vision Mover, and as such, I need a clear vision to work with in order to be successful.  While I learned absolutely nothing about marketing, I did come away with a newfound appreciation for the wise words of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who frequently reminded the WWE audience to “Know your role!”  Can you smell what the Rock is cookin’?

When I started this blog, I did it with the intent that I’d turn it over to the younger, fresher voices of our interns.  Brian wrote this and I had to laugh because I was well into my – ummm – more than thirties – and still dreading the question.  In fact, if I wasn’t doing what I’m doing, I’d be dreading it too.  Here’s Brian:

College is a very uncertain time for many of us.  One of the most confusing things can be the one thing that everyone feels compelled to ask constantly; “So… what do you want to do?”  I personally cannot escape this question.  Anyone I’ve ever met that has run out of legitimate things to say to me immediately falls back on this question.

Unfortunately, it’s a question many of us can’t answer.  There are the lucky few who happen to love the first thing they do, but most of us just try things until we find something that we’re good at, and even then, happiness isn’t guaranteed.

Fortunately for those of us who fall into the latter category, there are tools out there to help us answer this difficult question.  One such tool is Role Based Assessment.  RBA offers a different way of looking at ourselves, and how we fit into the workplace.  Universities across the country are noticing its usefulness.  One prominent northeastern college is considering offering RBA to all of its undergraduate business students, after being taken by only six students.  While there are other tools out there that were created for career guidance, RBA has been proven to work.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have something else to say the next time someone asks what you want to do?  Keep in mind: Thanksgiving break is approaching rapidly, a classic time for that question.

Ok Brian, I hereby promise NEVER to ask that question again.  Well, unless I’m trying to interest someone in getting the answer that’s right for them.

It’s wonderful to hear about people landing a job these days, but even more so when they give credit to their Role-Based Assessment!

Got this email, forwarded from a friend who helped a man who went through Tools4Careers.  He wrote:

“By means of an update, I’ve landed with a great organization as their new Director of Projects in what I think will be a great fit.  I described the position to you briefly when we first spoke back in June and I remember your reaction was something along the lines of “Of course!” per my assessment results.

“I wanted to give you a quick thanks, as our conversations and my exposure to Role-Based Assessment really helped to shape the way I thought and talked about my job prospects and interests this summer.”

Would he have gotten the job without his RBA?  Maybe.  They rely a lot on resumes in that world, and I understand he had a good one.  Sounds like after his RBA, he aligned his words more with who he is rather than the typical parroting of the job requirements, and it worked.

Either way, it’s cause for celebration!

The market is recovering, the market is tanking – take your choice.  Now, and for the next year at least, that recovery (if it is really happening) may not make finding a job any easier.  If you’re out of work, what the market is doing may not make much of a difference to you.

About all you can do is make sure that if you’re in the market for a job, you’re in the right market.  These are the key questions you should be asking yourself:

  • Is the market I’m looking in priced right for what I’m selling?  If you don’t know the current value of what you have to offer, how will you know you’re in the right market?
  • Is the market I’m looking in loaded in favor of buyers or sellers?  If all your colleagues have been laid off and no one’s had as much as an interview in months, do you want to consider switching to a market with less competition?
  • Does the market you’re looking in appreciate the intangibles you bring, or does it dislike those special characteristics you really enjoy expressing?  If your best quality is your friendliness, why are you looking at jobs that don’t involve much human interaction?

Whatever market you’re in, I hope it is a free market – one where you have the right to negotiate for your full value even as your potential employer has the same.