Why Planning a Career Fair is Like Planning a Wedding
EACE Blog contribution by Katie Damon, Career Counselor, Career Development Center, Thomas Jefferson University
Our career fair and my wedding are 12 days apart.
What was I thinking?
My conversations and decisions are seeming to merge together: “Yes, let’s do the boxed lunch, with a side salad, pumpkin cake, no, vanilla, with white frosting, get the balloons on Tuesday, the flowers on Thursday, have volunteers stuff employer folders Friday and the bridesmaids tie ribbons Saturday morning.” With the planning for these two major events in full swing, I’ve learned five great tips:
1) Plan ahead.
It seems that just before a big event the printer breaks, the toner runs out, and I seem to forget which way to put the paper in the printer. Now I set aside an afternoon for printing nametags well in advance of the fair (I still have flashbacks of sprinting around campus trying to find a working printer). A few weeks before the wedding I no longer have time to cut out hundreds of tiny hearts and tiny roses to glue on tiny cards, so I’m glad I did these tasks months ago. Thinking back, I probably should have asked for help, which brings me to my next point…
2) Recruit helpers.
Just like I’m wrangling friends and siblings to hang twinkle lights and hand out programs, I’m also recruiting 20 or so volunteers, mostly students, to assist with the Career Fair. It is a great opportunity for students who might not be ready to dive into the big pool of networking to get a sense of what the fair is like.
3) When in doubt, encourage a dress code.
If you are concerned Uncle Harold will arrive wearing a Hawaiian shirt to your formal wedding, throw a quick note on your wedding website that the attire is black tie. Similarly, if your students are showing up in jeans and flip flops year after year, post on your Career Center’s website a handy guide (with pictures!) for professional attire. I’ve seen some great marketing for fairs that include visuals on the poster about what to wear and bring the day of the Fair.
4) Timing is everything.
At recent wedding I attended, the bride’s grandparents got a little cranky because they hadn’t had their cake yet. It was also Sunday night wedding, and I noticed that some people had to leave early. Make sure the event is at a good time for your students, and if your employers seem to be getting a bit “hangry”, consider serving lunch earlier.
5) Be a good role model.
I’ve noticed if the bride isn’t dancing, the guests don’t dance as much. As the host of the Career Fair, do the equivalent of the Electric Slide: wear a suit, be friendly and upbeat, and wear your nametag on the right side – students are watching and will follow suit (and hopefully be wearing one)!
As your plan your fall events, ask yourself:
– Can I shift my planning earlier next year? What can I get started on now?
– Am I delegating enough? Can I recruit more volunteers?
– Is dress code important to my event? How can I promote this?
– Is the timing for my event the best it can be?
And some advice if you are planning a wedding: don’t have it during career fair season.
Katie Damon is a Career Counselor at Thomas Jefferson University where she advises undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, and alumni in healthcare fields. She is the co-chair for EACE’s Professional Development Committee and will be an adjunct instructor for Drexel’s LeBow College of Business starting Fall 2014. Katie earned her Master’s in Higher Education from Penn GSE and Bachelor’s in Management and Psychology from Penn State.