Convention Connection

Your next job may be as close as a professional conference. Here's how to work it on the job fair circuit.

people, is fine, as long as you ease your way into the conversation. This is a good time to throw your hat in the ring, if you haven’t already done so at the conference’s job fair.

  • There’s more (content) for your money. Typically, a job fair has one goal: to provide candidates with jobs. At professional conferences there are developmental workshops and seminars that will make you a better professional, such as ones on time management and handling stress, in addition to job fairs.
  • Companies spend more. Companies spend more money to sponsor events and invest in services, which oftentimes are designed to attract recruits and demonstrate the company’s diversity initiatives.
  • Make sure to seek out other venues at the convention to aid your job search. Aside from the job fair, visit or participate in events to get the scoop on the company and the job opportunities it has:

    • Participate in a panel. By doing so, you’ll get name and industry recognition and, when the time comes, you’re more likely to get the recruiter’s attention faster. As representatives of the company, recruiters are likely to sign up for panel discussions as well, so it’s another chance for you to converse with them.
    • Go to opening- and closing-night ceremonies. It’s probably where participants are the most excited and relaxed. Take the time to introduce yourself if you haven’t already and ask questions about what the company is looking for in potential candidates.

    When researching a prospective firm, you must have a clear understanding of the company and its goals. To do this, tap into Internet sites such as to find out a company’s background. Take Cigna Corp., for example, which according to the site had revenues of $21.4 million in 1998, with a one-year growth rate of 7%. The site also lists the company’s major businesses as insurance and financial services. Also, Cigna has openings in its legal, healthcare and financial services departments. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. You can pick up company brochures at the conference. However, if it’s a company you’ve targeted, you should do your homework well in advance of the conference. The more you know about it and its products and services, the better you’ll be able to offer your skills.

    Make sure to talk to people who are familiar with the company or who work there, says Angelia Allison, 38, associate director of strategic sourcing in the Worldwide Medicines Group of Bristol-Myers Squibb, in Princeton, New Jersey. That’s exactly what she did just four months ago when she decided to make the switch from the oil and gas industry to the pharmaceutical field after attending a professional conference.

    How, you ask? After she attended the conference, Allison talked to a friend who had worked for the company. “We talked about mobility within the company, how people were treated, whether there were a lot of minorities and how she liked the company.” Allison had the good fortune of having an insider to turn to, but

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