(Ed’s Note: Remember that this article was written 12 years ago. Real truth has a way of standing the test of time.)
Copyright © 2006 Ed Bagley
Reading my Sunday newspaper recently reminded me of how Career Fairs do little to substantially increase local employment. It seems that no one is willing to say this, and a lot fewer are even willing to believe it, but I know it to be all but a fact.
After spending 20+ years in the news business, and another 32+ years as a personal marketing specialist helping potential hires by writing upscale resumes, I can relate my experience with authority.
You might think that after helping 6,000+ clients get on with moving on and moving up in their careers that I could produce at least one client who has benefited from attending a Career Fair. I can not. This is why I caution any client who gets all excited and goosey about attending Career Fairs. I do not want their disappointment to affect my marketing plan to help them achieve their goals.
In revealing this apparent incongruity for the first time publicly, it is important to note that I am in the high end of the resume writing business. Virtually 97% of my 6,000+ clients during my 32-plus-year career are executives, professionals and managers earning between $60,000 and $500,000 annually who are already in management, want to be in management, or in sales and/or marketing.
Career fairs are all about first jobs and entry-level career jobs that do not pay all that well, so they do little for folks who have already been in the marketplace, enjoyed some success, and want to keep moving up the corporate ladder, or any other ladder of their choice.
This makes a lot of sense when you examine who is involved in putting on Career Fairs, and what they expect to get for their investment. I am not talking about the potential hires, or anyone looking for a job, or a better opportunity.
I am talking about businesses and organizations, large facility managers, and big advertising media, usually the dominant daily newspaper in the community. Nothing meets their profit needs, their publicity needs, and their public service needs like Career Fairs. It has become almost a rite of passage for these special interest groups in our society.
Let us start with businesses and organizations. Should you stroll down to a Career Fair in your community, and talk to a business representative at a snappy booth display, you will quickly pick up on the fact that the well dressed person is not the person you were expecting.
You knew going there that if Microsoft was a participant Bill Gates would probably not be there, but you secretly hoped he would. Later you came to realize that the person a major corporation sends to represent them at these Career Fairs is usually the most expendable person available.
This is why they smile a lot, take your resume (sometimes they do not), and tell you very little about what the company is really doing. Major companies that are cooking the books (using unacceptable accounting practices to inflate revenue and profits in order to increase stock prices so executives suck money out faster), and in worse shape than they want their stockholders and the public to know, would be at a Career Fair putting on their best face.
Just being at a Career Fair is good business for businesses and organizations because it gives the impression that those involved are key players in building the community, increasing employment, and acting like a good corporate citizen.
If you think large facility managers do not like Career Fairs you would be sadly mistaken. The same managers who hosted last week’s rock concert du jour are more than happy to move the rockers out and the new vendors in.
Facility managers do not give the space away as a public service, and they do take care of the “job” exhibitors. Whether any potential candidate attending the Career Fair ultimately gets hired is none of their business.
Newspapers and related media (usually radio which needs public service announcements to stay licensed) love Career Fairs. The Internet has been gaining the advertising and profits that newspapers have been losing. Newspapers have been forced to create web sites and compete on the Internet whether they want to or not.
Career Fairs give newspapers extra ads and profit regardless of the economy. Newspapers generally run a special section advertising the Career Fair as it gives paying advertisers and the event itself more exposure and prominence. Newspapers also feel a need to serve the community that supports them, whether people get hired at these Career Fairs or not.
You are seeing more and more and more Career Fairs (or Job Fairs) because it is good business for three very big special interest groups who may be more like a three-legged stood than a helping hand. You could hold Career Fairs for the unemployed every other week in Flint, Michigan and it still would not affect their depressed economy; I suspect that the same is true in many other communities across the country.
When your government tells you employment is on the rise, public officials are counting on the fact that when an unemployed person’s compensation benefits run out, they drop off of the rolls and remain unaccounted for even though they are still unemployed.
The salient point here is this: It is likely that when people benefit from these Career Fairs it is more by accident than design; the unemployed in our economy are the true story worth telling.