Our office is settling down to the peace and quiet of spring break, after having staged three job fairs in less than a week. As fair season draws to a close, some job seekers think it's okay to let their job searches wind down, too. Good idea? Of course not!
The reality is that few people are hired at job fairs - or even immediately afterward. The fairs are a chance for administrators to look at candidates and to consider who will be invited for interviews later in the spring or summer. The real work for candidates begins when the fairs conclude.
How can you maximize the important time after the fairs and use it to your advantage? Take this opportunity to distinguish yourself from those who joined you in the long job fair lines. Here are a few ways to do this:
• Send thank-you letters/emails to the employers with whom you spoke at the fairs. Actually, you should have done this immediately after each fair, but if you forgot, it's better to do it late than not at all.
• Do you have questions for employers that came up after a fair? If so, now's the time to ask.
• Check websites from the career services offices or organizations that sponsored the job fairs. Many job fair listings stay alive long after the fair has ended. You can still contact the schools/districts who attended to inquire about the openings they posted.
• Use the time to thoroughly research districts that interested you. Yes, you should have done this before the fair, but talking with district representatives may have prompted you to research aspects that you overlooked the first time.
• Keep looking! There are many good sites for job openings, beginning with district and regional offices of education (educational service areas) websites.
• If you're currently student teaching, build up accomplishments that will clearly separate you (hopefully, in a positive way) from competitors.
• Ask your principal if s/he can observe your teaching (if this isn't automatically built into your program).
• While you're student teaching, see if you can shadow teachers in different academic areas that might interest you. This can broaden your knowledge base, and it can give you exposure to new teaching methods.
• Volunteer - for whatever is needed - at your school. Attend school events and make important contacts.
• Coach, or assist with coaching.
• Check into summer jobs that will demonstrate your interest in working with school-aged children.
• Investigate taking a summer class to increase your marketability. Examples: ELL/ESL, foreign language (especially Spanish), strategies for working with students with special needs.
• Update/tune up your resume. Remember that it is a living document. It should change and grow as you do.
• Strengthen and expand your network. Invite that potential reference-writer out for coffee.
• Do a practice interview and get feedback to help you hone your face-to-face marketing skills.
Your career services office may have even more suggestions for your post-fair job search. Job fairs may be ending, but they were just the beginning of the recruitment process. It's what you do after the fairs that really counts.
Dawn S. Jones
Online Advisor, Career Services
Northern Illinois University