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College job fairs are drawing alumni

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One of the things I get to do in my job is stay alert to the trends taking place and shaping the way people hire and fire. I tend to write about these trends when I see something that particularly stands out to me as being different from the norm. To be honest, I have recruited at more job fairs than I care to remember – numbering somewhere in the hundreds, I am sure.

Job fairs are interesting as a whole; it is almost a social experiment. You have people who for the most part just want the free stuff at your booth, you have the people who didn’t bring a resume but want you to interview them on the spot, and you have the people who are going booth to booth with their friends, dressed and acting completely unprofessional and yet wanting you to hire them. On the upside, you do meet a lot of very well-prepared professional people who attend job fairs and make them worth your time.

These examples are from your standard typical job fair at any convention center in any state and any town. The exception to this rule is when I do college job fairs. I cannot pigeonhole college job fairs, and it is very difficult to even broad-brush them because they are so different from the “norm.” So I will skip telling you about the parents who show up to represent their kids and demand you interview them, and I will skip the high-spending alumni who do the “do you know who I am” to leverage an interview for their kids. I will skip all of that to get to a new trend that I think is interesting and very telling.

College students are being overrun by college alumni at these job fairs. Those same people that I gave you examples of above are now showing up representing themselves and looking for an interview. Alumni of all ages are coming back as the economy and layoffs are affecting every level of position in almost every company.

It is truly a reflection of these times. I do not think that I ever have seen alumni return in such high numbers. I will say this: They are wise to take advantage of job fairs. Although most companies that attend college job fairs are looking for new graduates to mold and shape, that doesn’t negate the fact that these companies also have positions requiring experience. Utilizing your college network, whether through job fairs or other alumni, is never a bad thing.

Statistics show that somewhere between 65 to 70 percent of jobs are filled through networking. I encourage you to take advantage of that network of alumni that you have, as well as attending the job fairs at your alma mater. Also don’t forget to connect online through Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networking sites. They are free, easy to learn and you will be amazed by the number of contacts you can make in a short period of time.

Let me also encourage you that the time to start thinking this way and connecting is not when the layoff comes. It is now.

Nick Reddin is the regional director for Manpower Inc.’s Des Moines office.

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