To Fair or Not to Fair

…that appears to be the question being asked by MBA and Masters business students.

I refer specifically to the annual national MBA/Masters business career fairs, one hosted by NBMBAA and the other by NSHMBA. This year the first of these career fairs is in Atlanta, October 6th and 7th and the other in Anaheim, October 14th and 15th.

Is it a good investment of your time and money to go?  Should you attend?

That’s your call and you should decide based on maximizing your potential networking opportunities with hiring managers, recruiters and corporate management; i.e. the people who actually make the hiring decisions.

There are some very convincing reasons for attending.

1- You have between 250 to 300 companies, their recruiters and hiring managers available to speak with you; all under one roof, in one place, for 2 entire days! How many recruiters and managers might be there? Let’s say there are 260 companies and they average just 4 managers per company, some can have more than 10; that is at least 1,040 company managers under one roof. Where else will you find such a concentration of corporate management in one place in the next few months?

2- Companies pay a lot to rent a table/booth at these career fairs, some up to 4 or more booth spaces. I should know, I used to attend and recruit from these events. Given what it costs each company to attend, you can bet they are not there just for show. In these tough economic times you have to justify spending the company’s money. Their attendance tells you they have a reason for being there; they are recruiting MBAs and Masters business students. That would be you!

3- Companies don’t hire resumes or online applications files; they hire people! You can apply online all you want but nothing takes the place of being face to face with hiring managers. If your only career management effort is to apply online or send out resumes by email or snail mail, then you are a piece of paper or an online file, probably one of many. If you are standing in front of me, you are a real person I can speak with.

4- I cannot count the number of times I hear MBA and Masters business students say “if I could only get a chance to speak with (insert name or title here), I could get them interested in me”. Here’s your chance.

5- Our business school, as do many, has a very large business career fair in mid-September. Some students have mentioned that they plan to attend that career fair so why should they attend one of the major national career fairs? Comparing the list of companies attending our career fair with the list of those that will be in Atlanta and/or Anaheim, there are only about 20 matches.

6- Major business career fairs on-campus are, to make it more advantageous for the recruiting companies, almost always focused on graduate and undergraduate business students. The major national career fairs we are discussing are focused only on MBA and Masters business students. Enough said.

7- Another important point to keep in mind is that often the major national or global firms recruiting at on-campus business career fairs are seeking candidates for regional or local operations. Major national and global firms attending the national MBA/Masters business career fairs are recruiting for their national and global operations. If you apply for positions you are interested in, online and ahead of time with companies that are attending the career fair, many of these companies will conduct interviews at the career fair with candidates they are interested in. many companies keep some interview slots open for student they meet at the career fair and are interested in.

8- One last, often overlooked advantage, to the major national MBA/ Masters business career fairs. Some companies host “invitation only” an after hour’s reception, often with senior company management in attendance. This is a chance for those invited career fair attendees to meet more company management and make an impression on the decision makers.

Let’s look at the numbers:

1- If you only focus on attending the career fair on your campus (I’m using our upcoming one for this example), you will have at least 155 companies and possibly 300 managers to potentially interact with.

2- If you only focus on attending one of the national MBA/Masters business career fairs, you will at least 250 companies and over 1,000 recruiters and hiring managers to potentially interact with.

3- If you decide to attend both the on-campus and one of the national MBA/Masters business career fairs, you will have at least 405 companies and at least 1,300 recruiters and hiring managers to potentially interact with.

Of the three possible options, you can see which one gives you the greatest potential exposure, the most possible networking and marketing opportunities and the best possible return on your investment of time and money.

Attending none of these events is not really an option for any MBA or masters business student serious about their career management effort, unless you already have a job locked up.

Then, congratulations!!!

If you are going to attend a national career fair, have a plan. Have your 30 second “elevator speech” ready, know which firms you want to visit first (the “A” list), which next (the “B” list), and how to make sure you also visit the others. No stone left unturned.

Your graduate business career center should be able to help your develop an effective plan to optimize your efforts. You do not want to walk into one of these events with no plan. You will be lost and miss a lot of opportunities.

You have or are putting a lot of time, effort and money into your graduate program. Your sleep and personal life are suffering. This was a life decision for you. It stands to reason that you will be as committed towards maximizing your potential career opportunities, more so in the present economy we all find ourselves in.

Maximizing your opportunities is an excellent start; minimizing them is like starting the game down two touchdowns and having to punt the ball to the other team.

There is no mystery to success, there is however hard work and commitment.

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5 thoughts on “To Fair or Not to Fair

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