By Khalid AlAmeri (@KhalidAlAmeri)
Every year, the UAE exhibition centers open up their doors to host a variety of career fairs with inspiring slogans such as “Empowering Nationals” flying high on their banners. The sights and sounds of ambitious young women and men, resumes in hands, about to take the giant step into the corporate world are energizing to say the least.
For me, attending the various career fairs is like taking a trip back in time, bringing back memories of career counseling, resume drafting and getting excited every time you see a landline number popping up on your mobile phone; hoping that that your resume landed on the right person’s desk.
Post university job hunting is a sensitive period in everybody’s life. Being a student all your life and moving into a land where the spoon-feeding stops and adulthood starts can be nerve racking, this is why I believe a career fair is a critical tool in giving young career seekers an insight into what lies ahead. Therefore, it is the responsibility of both, the attendees and exhibiting corporations to ensure that the experience is one that is meaningful and valuable.
Let us start with who career fairs are all about, the career seekers. For them, showing up is an obvious good start, but I could not help but notice a lack of research on the their part, of both the exhibiting organizations and more importantly, on their own personal goals and ambitions. Instead of asking a company, in a very dull tone more often than not, “So what have you got?” career seekers should be asking if companies have roles that match their personal ambitions and skill sets.
It is important for attendees to understand that the event is called a Career Fair not a Job fair for a reason. A career is defined as an individuals’ progress through life while a job is a more task-based process leaving out the all-important aspects of life’s progression. That my friends is a significant difference.
When assessing career choices there are critical questions our young graduates should ask themselves before attending career fairs, such as ‘Where do my passions lie?’ ‘What role would give me a sense of purpose?’ and ‘What organization will support my long term ambitions?’ Answering these questions gives potential employees a clear direction of where their interests lie, and in turn, it impresses the organizations they are interested in through their goal-orientated approach to employment
Moving on to the exhibitors, the local & international entities are always out in full force making big statements that they are there to employ and develop human capital.
So what exactly does an exhibitor do and how do they interact with the career seekers? Well, after visiting few stands, the process becomes quite repetitive; you are greeted, briefed on the company and then asked to fill the online application at one of their laptop stations.
I can understand the company’s need to streamline the process by getting the highest amount of applications possible, but this should not be a numbers game. Top-notch companies should be looking for quality versus quantity, right? So it is easy to see why one would question the value of attending versus simply reviewing the website and applying from the comfort of their own home.
This can be frustrating and demotivating to a career seeker who slowly starts to believe that he or she is just another number in an ever-increasing pile of online applications. Organizations should start spending more time seeking ideal candidates by outlining the specific roles and educational backgrounds they require; this will save everyone a lot of time and effort.
Secondly, the all-important interview, which is by far the most critical milestone of the employment process, but for some reason, there was not much interviewing going on during my visit. Exhibiting staff may argue that there is an excess amount of candidates coupled with a lack of time, but I believe that every company present should have an interview room ready to sit down with high potential candidates and discuss employment opportunities in greater detail.
Being able to kick off the hiring process would benefit corporations through time and cost savings, in addition to attracting higher caliber talent to the career fair. Believe me, if career seekers knew that an opportunity to properly present themselves and get some personal one on one time with corporations was present, the talent level in attendance would sky rocket.
Lastly career seekers want to connect with people who have been in their shoes, which is why a certain Abu Dhabi based bank’s actions spoke a lot louder than their words. This bank ensures that several employees hired through previous career fairs are in attendance and ready to answer questions on personal experiences of the recruitment process. This is incredibly important; as it would make a statement that the company is in there to hire versus using the fair as a marketing platform. Think about it, how many people do you know who have been hired through a career fair?
So what is a career fair all about at the end of the day? I believe it should be used as a platform to tackle the ideology that the sole point of work is a text message from the bank at the end of the month saying our salary has been transferred. A career is so much more than that, in order to truly put your heart and soul into the work you do, you have to be passionate about it; this is when your job transforms into a career. The right career is out there for everyone and it is up to career fair exhibitors and attendees to make sure they find it.