Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Get the most out of a career fair- (and I don't mean the most free swag the companies are giving away).

Over the last week or so I've been focused on bringing together companies for the inaugural University of Louisville Athletic Department Career Fair taking place on March 25th. During these conversations with HR directors & hiring managers I discovered employers find Job Fairs just as big a waste of time as your average participant. Think about your own experience at a Job Fair. If it was even remotely like mine you would have been better off just randomly submitting your resume to companies on monster while playing "Edward 40-hands" in your dorm room. These Job Fairs are set up to be absolute cattle calls "just stop in, see who's there" no focus no direction just companies & free stuff to entice you in the door. The fundamental flaw with the Job Fair approach is the focus on numbers not connection or engagement. Now I understand that with out numbers the participating companies are not going to be interested & if companies aren't interested then potential candidates will in turn not show. So you end up with this eastern philosophy "Yin & Yang" so to speak; if one side is out of balance the whole thing implodes. So how do you turn a Job Fair into a Career Fair making it mutually beneficial for both the candidates & the employers?

If you are a soon to be graduate or in a career transition looking to use the convenience of a Career Fair to help in your search, keep the following rules in mind at your next event & you may just score the career you are searching for (if you use these rules & the career fair is still a waste of time you can always revert back to plan B & just take every logo branded stress ball, mouse pad & thumb drive in sight).

* As Abraham Lincoln said, " If I had 8 hours to chop down a tree I'd spend six sharpening my axe". That's right a sharp axe is the first step (I'm speaking metaphorically here unless of course you are applying for a lumberjack position then please take Abe's quote literally). You need planning & direction to make this work. The worst thing you can do is stroll through casually & unprepared. Most career fairs will be posted online days if not weeks in advance. These postings will detail which companies will be in attendance & their booth locations. Map out which companies you want to visit first, research those company’s websites & read the position descriptions. Hit those companies first.

* "Act As If"- If you have ever seen the movie "Boiler Room" you probably remember the sales manager's (Ben Affleck) monologue. He begin each point with "Act as if"- Well the same is true here "Act as if you are going to an interview not a Career Fair. This means all aspects: Dress, attitude, presentation & practice.
* Dress- Yes I'm going to suggest you dress for the position you want. At this point you're probably thinking, "yeah I've heard that a hundred times" well; that's because it works. If you want to differentiate yourself from the casual participant, wear a suit. You will come across focused & mature. Now there is one caveat to this if the companies you have identified are the business casual type at least wear slacks & collared shirt. You are going to be meeting more than just the companies you identified & you will make a much stronger first impression.
* Attitude- you can have greatest resume or on the contrary a mediocre resume & your attitude will be the tiebreaker. If you come across unenthusiastic, smug or just a plain apathetic you won't get a second look. So put on a happy face, have a positive attitude. Look the recruiters in their eyes & smile.
* Presentation- have you ever been to one of those swanky- reservations 3 months in advance unpronounceable name type restaurants. Only to discover you could have paid 95% less at Taco Bell & received 95% more food. Why do you do this? Presentation! It's the dress the attitude the presentation that draws you in. So when you go to your next career fair focus on the presentation. Dress for the part, have the positive contagious attitude, walk tall with confidence own the room!
* Practice- just like preparing for the game. It doesn’t change. Use the same methodology you would in athletics. Practice a personal elevator pitch (more on that next week) for when you meet with the recruiters, practice a mock question & answer session about your industries of interest- (guys practice tying a tie, I know that sounds dumb- but waiting until the last minute to prepare & showing up with a jacked up Windsor knot is even dumber). I'll reiterate- Treat this just like a game situation. You are in essence preparing for the next game.

That's it; everything comes down to preparation & practice. Follow this simple formula & you will make your next career fair a success. For more information about upcoming career fairs & additional career planning resources visit

Best wishes,

Chad Pinkston
Chief Sales Officer
The Corporate Playbook LLC

Sunday, February 03, 2008

A Cautionary Tale in Sports Marketing!
After Five Marketing Group, Inc.

Building Successful Business People From “Scratch”

Now that you have graduated from college, are you're ready for a Professional Career that truly offers the growth and rewards you’ve always dreamed? After Five Marketing Group, Inc. Is now offering positions at the entry level for sales and marketing. We are a fast growing marketing firm that has already expanded into White Plains, New York and Woburn, Massachusetts.

We are in search of ambitious, energetic individuals with a powerful will to succeed. Our East Providence office is expanding rapidly and the beauty is: YOU DON’T NEED PRIOR SALES OR MARKETING EXPERIENCE. Our openings are absolutely ideal for recent graduates looking to get their foot in the door and gain valuable experience, or for those wanting to change careers. We provide Full Training and encourage any candidate with great people skills to apply!

Entry-Level responsibilities include working with our Fortune 500 clients, relationship building and problem solving for existing customers, and new customer acquisitions. Pay based upon performance. Advancement opportunities include traveling, relocation, and management training for the right candidate. A four-year degree is preferred but not necessary.

If you are serious about success, come join the best of the best at After Five Marketing Group, Inc

We are looking for career minded individuals that have extraordinary people skills and are competitive in nature. No previous sales and marketing experience is necessary. This is a fully trained position.

All right this seems legitimate right. I thought so too. Let me tell you a little cautionary tale about great marketing opportunities for sports minded individuals.

I was interviewing earlier this week for an entry-level sales position with a candidate who had recently graduated from college & was obviously early on in his career search. After a few minutes of chatting & building rapport I asked how his career search was going. He shared with a tale that unfortunately is all too familiar. He had responded to a posting similar to the one listed above. Being a former athlete & looking to crack into outside sales this looked like a great opportunity. He arrived for the interview 15 minutes early freshly pressed, shoes shined, 3 copies of his resume ready to nail it. After a half-hour of talking, discussing his past & future goals, the interviewer made a suggestion. "Why don't ride with one of our top reps today?" Being eager to get a job he complied even though he had an interview lined up with another company that afternoon. There was still one unanswered question here though-"What did After Five Marketing do?" He asked this question point blank to the interviewer (after an hour of searching online for the company he a had come up empty handed). He was simply told "Oh it's great you'll see." Once again hoping to make a good impression he didn't question the answer. He ended up in a sub-compact car with a disgruntled chain-smoking slob headed to a territory two hours away. He asked the same question to the supposed "Top rep"- "What do you do?" a simple question for most to articulate with words- however he was on again met with "You'll just have to see it to believe it". They arrive at the territory- a residential neighborhood. He's handed an identification badge & told to work the left side of the street knocking on doors to sell coupons. (I mean seriously is it that difficult to describe what they do-"we sell coupons" would probably suffice.) Anyway at this point he's been through an hour interview two-hour drive & here he is selling coupons door-to-door. He's a little nervous & not trying to show it as he approaches the first door- he knocks. A man answers the door waving a pistol & letting him know that he & the "Top Rep" had better leave the neighborhood (at this point he's super excited about his career search). He's finally had enough & tells the "Top Rep" you are taking me back now. "Top Rep" agrees & they make the two-hour drive back. Now I could end the story here & it would probably be bad enough, but it gets worse. They get a flat tire on the ride back- he gets out of the car to help change the tire (there's a few inches of snow on the ground & more falling) & is sprayed by a salt truck (he was wearing the only suit to his name & it was now covered in slush/salt). He finally makes it back to his car with 15 minutes to make it to the next interview- (the interview with me). I shared with him a similar tale of my experience- 7 years ago were I loaded into a minivan dropped off & ended up wondering through a neighborhood selling DSL Internet.

I've encountered an alarmingly high number of these stories lately. If you have had a similar experience email me & tell me about it If you are interested in great career opportunities that won't leave you wondering around neighborhoods getting guns pulled on you visit the #1 resource for connecting athletes to growing organizations.

Best wishes,

Chad Pinkston
Chief Sales Officer
The Corporate Playbook