Three Ways to Take the Headache Out of Creating Your Fair Floor Plan

David Nicol, Co-Founder, Career Fair Plus

Do you dread assigning your employers a table at your Career Fair? Do you worry about career-expo-attendee-mapleaving someone out or not putting them in the right place? What about making changes at the last minute? And after all that… will your attendees know how to use it?

We see several hundred floor plans and table assignments at Career Fair Plus each year. Here are some of our favorite ways to keep it all straight and make it work for students.

  1. Plan for for overflow

The last thing you want to be doing right before your event  is moving tables around. Plan your table layout to use the space you have and allow for some extra tables in case you have last-minute sign ups. That way you don’t have to squeeze in extra tables on the map or shift them around at the last minute.

  1. Number your tables logically

Many layouts have rows in the middle and a perimeter of tables on the outside. Try to keep consecutive numbers as close as possible to each other. This will help you understand who might be next to each other at the planning stage and help your students find each booth.

  1. Use a spreadsheet to assign booths

When it’s time to assign booths, start with your list of registered employers in a spreadsheet. Typically, you already have a list of employers in your registration system, so the best thing to do is create a new column for your booths and assign them directly in the spreadsheet. We have seen countless errors crop up when people try to assign the booths using a list that is not based on their registration data. The most common mistakes we see are typos, missing companies, and duplicate companies and these can cause a lot of frustration and confusion right before the big event.

We believe that if you follow these three guidelines, you will have a more successful and satisfying career fair with significantly less frustration for both you and your attendees. I hope you found this useful and invite you to check out Career Fair Plus (www.careerfairplus.com). We give you the power to put all of the necessary career fair information directly in the hands of your students.


Ensuring Your Professional Dress Materials are Inclusive: How do gender, race, age, class, ability, body type and culture intersect with professional dress?

Melena Postolowski – Director of Internships and Employer Relations, Eckerd College
Winner of the highest rated session from our 2016 Annual Conference 

I first entered the field of career coaching while I was in the process of completing my graduate degree in Counseling Psychology. At the same time that I was learning about the potential detriments of cultural assimilation in class, I was figuring out how to navigate conversations about professional dress with the clients I was working with on job search preparation. There was some obvious in-congruencemelena-photo between what I was learning to be “right” in the classroom versus what I was learning in my professional realm. This always caused internal tension for me.

One of my most memorable experiences was working work a bright, kind, highly competent international student from India. This particular student was a career coach’s dream: she always showed up to appointments with the utmost preparedness and followed all suggestions surrounding networking, following up and tailoring her resume to each job she applied to. The candidate had substantial past work experience, including running her own business, and an incredible transferable skill set. However, she continued to struggle with finding a job.

When it was time for the career fair, the student asked to meet with me to show me what she planned on wearing to the event. She arrived at my office in a beautiful, exquisite saree and I didn’t know what to say. The conversation ultimately resulted in encouraging the student’s freedom to choose for herself, but acknowledging that recruiters at the event would be expecting candidates to wear western style business suits. I went through all of the components of the outfit with her and even helped identify local shops where she could find something affordable. Days later she showed up to my office in the most typical, grey two-piece suit and my heart broke. I told her she looked great and wished her the best at the fair. Sure enough, she got a job offer almost immediately after the event and is one of the international students who was successful in remaining in the U.S. after graduation.

Was this candidate’s job search success solely based on whether or not she put on that grey suit? No one could ever be sure. But this experience, and my experience working with a variety of other students from different walks of life, really made me think about the concept of “professional dress.” Where do these ideals come from? Who are we helping by maintaining these ideals? Who are we hurting?

Obviously the student’s goal was to find employment and by those means, she was successful. I just wonder if her heart broke as much as mine did when she had to hang up the saree.

This past year I decided to start discussions on the topic of professional dress as it relates to diversity and inclusion. I wanted something to change in the way that we approach these conversations and the most obvious fix (to me) was beginning by removing the gender binary that is so often associated with this concept. Traditionally and typically in career services, professional dress is taught in a way that separates out what is considered appropriate male and female dress. Nonbinary students seeking career advice may feel limited by these explanations. Because research has shown that feelings of acceptance and belonging have a large effect on student learning, engagement and retention, updating professional dress materials to be more gender inclusive will allow for more students to be engaged in the professional development process. In turn, students will become more likely to benefit from career services offerings.

I presented on how to include the gender spectrum within professional dress educational materials at the 2016 FloridaACE Annual Conference and was blown away by my audience’s response. After the formal presentation, everyone in the room came together to discuss other ways in which diversity and inclusion are affected by professional dress standards and there was a call for a 2.0 version of the presentation. I had the opportunity to present again during the FloridaACE Drive-in Conference in the fall and included a variety of other recommendations based on the feedback I received from my industry peers over the summer.

Some of these additional diversity-related considerations are as follows:

  • Within your professional dress educational materials, do you have variety in racial representation? It is important to feature models that reflect your student body, not just one particular type of student.
  • Age may be less relevant for more traditional campuses, but there are plenty of blended campuses in which age diversity would be important to think about. Ensuring your veterans, for example, are feeling included as well as your more traditional graduate is something to keep in mind. Also, on the flip side – you can’t just have pictures of “adults” at work because younger students will not resonate with that.
  • In regards to socioeconomic class, are you also offering tips on finding affordable professional dress options within your community? Some schools offer consignment clothing that students can borrow for an interview.
  • Are you representing people with physical differences? Do students in wheelchairs have an example to look to? Also, in regards to body type, do all of your images depict GQ models? If so… you may want to rethink that.
  • Have you ever thought of including professional dress images with someone wearing a hijab? How about a yarmulke? If not, it may be worth reflecting on why this decision was made.

The reality is that there are industry expectations and business suits are not going out of style anytime soon, but there are ways in which we can handle the concept with some more flexibility. I don’t have all the answers and I know that it would be a difficult task to ensure that everyone feels included, but I also know that we can all be better at making sure more people feel included. Regardless of our own personal belief systems, political affiliation or culture of origin, we work in an industry that serves people and each day we show up to work we act as role models for the next generation entering the workforce.

So, what message are you sending about professional dress? Make sure it’s one you’re proud of.

#TBT…University of West Florida Career Services Engages International and Study Abroad Students

Katie Hudon, University of West Florida

The University of West Florida (UWF) Career Services Department has partnered with the Office of Diversity and International Education and Programs (ODIEP) to afford UWF international and study abroad students the opportunity to learn about techniques and best practices in career planning and to understand the availability and advantages of engaging in experiential learning.  Both international students and study abroad students have unique needs, opportunities and challenges they face.  UWF Career Services has worked to become well informed about these populations so that the office can better  support, offer programming, and assist these students in communicating their experiences to bolster their credentials and help ease the transition for them into their future careers.

In addition to extensive research conducted by Career Services staff, representatives from Career Services from both the Career Planning Team and the Experiential Learning Team reached out to the Director of the International Student Office as well as Program Coordinators/Advisors for International Students, the International Center and Study Abroad.  Setting up meetings with these ODIEP staff members created an ongoing series of forums for learning about students with which the ODIEP regularly worked.  Career Services representatives were able to ask pointed questions about how to best reach out to and serve international and study abroad students.  Moreover, to get a pulse on the needs of international students, discussions with the ODIEP included uncovering common questions and concerns related to Career Services that were asked by UWF international students.  For study abroad students, opportunities such as international internships and future participation at the ODIEP-hosted Study Abroad Fair were explored.

From these meetings, Career Services gained valuable insight on participation and partnership opportunities available through events and activities hosted by the ODIEP.  For example, participation through volunteerism at large-scale events hosted by the ODIEP (such as UWF Celebrates the World and Cultural Explosion) allowed staff members to meet and interact with many UWF international students and those students interested in study abroad.

In addition to learning more about ODIEP events and international and study abroad students, Career Services was able to share its own upcoming events.  Representatives of the office were also able to inform the ODIEP team about the full range of services available through the Career Services office.

As a result of this newfound relationship between the two departments (which are housed in two different divisions at UWF), the lines of communication are fully open between the ODIEP and Career Services.  For example, recently, job scam alerts were discussed in a Career Services staff meeting.  As this issue was being discussed in the staff meeting, Career Services staff quickly recognized that this information should be shared with the ODIEP, as many of these scams target international students.  Soon after the staff meeting, this information was relayed to appropriate individuals in the ODIEP.  In addition to protecting students because of the free flow of information now existing between the two offices, international students are very frequently referred to Career Services for various career needs.  The close relationship between the two offices keeps Career Services forefront in the minds of ODIEP staff as a helpful resource for both students and staff members.

Finally, a capstone programming initiative was launched in the Fall of 2012, an initiative that further demonstrates the impact of the flourishing collaboration between the two departments.  In an effort to focus on the specific needs of international students, a series of career-related workshops targeting international students were held.  The first workshop provided an overview of Career Services and gave some specific information related to job search strategies, networking, and goal setting.  The second workshop, held early in the Spring of 2013, provided students with techniques for interviewing, networking, and engaging employers at career events.  This presentation was strategically situated for relevancy less than three weeks before the UWF Spring Career Showcase, which was the largest career expo of the Spring 2013 Term.  Several international students attended the career expo after coming to the workshop.  The third workshop, which was a resume workshop, allowed international students the opportunity to identify similarities and differences between resumes in their home countries and in the U.S.  All of the workshops were infused with well-researched content highlighting best career development practices for international students.  Students from both the Pensacola and Emerald Coast campus attended the workshops, and international students representing each of the three UWF colleges were present.  Students attending the workshops were very engaged and asked in-depth and specific questions that allowed Career Services staff to convey their knowledge gained from research and experience.

 

#TBT…UCF Career Services Takes the Lead – Ready Room

Kathleen Rancourt, University of Central Florida

On Oct 3rd, UCF Career Services offered a new initiative at the already popular Career Expo – The Ready Room.  This year we had approximately 1700 students and over 200 employers who attended the Career Expo.  Career Services spends a lot of time prior to the event providing programs and services to help prepare our  students to meet employers. In addition to current programs and services, we implemented a new approach this Fall by hosting a Ready Room.  The Ready Room provided an opportunity for students to get immediate feedback and coaching prior to meeting with employers.

The Ready Room had four stations.

1. How Do I Look?  Students stood in front of a mirror and were able to get their business suits critiqued.  Scissors, safety pins and bobby pins were all on hand for last minute fixes.   Students were very appreciative for the helpful suggestions on how to dress to impress at future expos and interviews. It was great to see how open students were to getting feedback; some students were literally dashing through the turn-style and asking “How do I look?”

2. Picture Perfect – Students were dressed and looking sharp for their LinkedIn profile photograph.   They were very excited to be able to replace their casual photo for a professional one.  It was also a great  opportunity to educate students on LinkedIn as a powerful networking tool.  This was such a popular station that students who were not able to take their photo before the career expo made sure to return after the expo to have their photo taken.

3. Google Employers –Some students are often unaware of the importance of researching employers  prior to attending a career expo. Students were offered a work station with laptops and practical guidance on how to research employers.  Having knowledge of the companies they were interested in meeting was valued by both students and employers.

4. Practice Run – This station was definitely a hit.  Students were able to practice maintaining eye contact, a firm handshake, a smile and a strong introduction. Students had the chance to work one-on-one with a career professional to try out their pitch.  Not only was this great practice, but also a great confidence booster.

We were excited about this new initiative, but were not expecting such a great turnout.  We had almost 500 students come through the Ready Room and the student feedback was overwhelmingly positive.  After visiting the Ready Room, students were asked to complete feed-back evaluations.  Over 200 evaluations were collected and one hundred percent of students indicated they would recommend the Ready Room to other students.

“I’m so glad this was available.  It is such a valuable resource and made me feel more confident in myself and ready for the career fair.”  – UCF student

 “This was a great addition to the job fair.  It allowed students to not only prep, but release nervous energy before meeting with employers.  Very satisfying!”  – UCF student

#TBT…Student Success Celebration at Florida Tech

Tace 2he Office of Career Management Services at Florida Tech just held the second Student Success Celebration to honor students who have completed a job/internship/co-op from Summer 2013 to Fall 2013 (dates could vary) and/or have a job already set for them upon graduating in December 2013. During the first of these events, which occurred in Spring 2013, the Office of Career Management  Services was looking for students with the same criteria but for Summer 2012 through Spring 2013.

This celebration, although for the students, helped the department with assessment.  The students were able to enjoy light refreshments and have a chance to win great prizes in a raffle. The Office of Career Management Services hopes to continue this activity for many semesters to come.

 

#TBT…Email Etiquette: The Art of Writing in the 21st Century

Jairo R. Ledesma, Florida International University

For centuries the art of writing a letter was just that: an art.  Writing was reserved for scribes, whose job it was to draft carefully edited letters and books that would be read by the elite. Over time, with the advent of technology the scribe was replaced and the production of books and letters was accessible to many. That was a good thing I guess. The drawback, we could surmise, has been that we no longer pay attention to detail and the power that the written word has. Take for example the manner in which we communicate today. Electronic mail, or email, is perhaps the number one way we communicate (I do believe this is changing, and how you communicate has to do with the age bracket you fall under) and it is perhaps the only way we have to get our point across in great detail, since the days of actually writing a letter by hand are all but gone.

Email in its purest form is a representation of who we are. It allows the reader to infer our character, mood and overall mental well being. IF I WRITE TO YOU IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, you will assume that I am either very angry at you or that I simply forgot to let go of the Caps Lock button. if i rite to u like this, u may think that i am younger and hip, or maybe you will think I am your friend or something. Or if I write to you like one my students did recently “Yo Ledesma,  I uploaded my resume go ahead and approve it because I needed ASAP” you may think I was a bit rude.

So, where have all the etiquette and manners gone? Over the course of my almost 13 years in higher education, I have noticed that etiquette as it pertains to writing has diminished and seems to be spiraling downwards. Gone are the days of paying attention to detail, to the tone and to our audience.

The internet/information revolution perhaps has made us go a bit faster than we were previously accustomed to. In our haste to keep up, perhaps we have neglected the details, or is it that in our early educational experience, the emphasis on writing and grammar has shifted? Could it be perhaps that these deficiencies were always there, but is it only now when the written word is more important than ever, that we notice this? Whatever the case may be I find myself having an internal battle of whether or not I should take the time to “school” a student on proper email etiquette. I think about whether the student will actually take into consideration what I just wrote to them. I contemplate whether I now will get into a back and forth with a student who may take offense to a “teaching moment.” In the end, the educator in me always wins out. In my line of work, every moment is a teaching moment, an opportunity to share information and/or an opportunity to make students reflect and think.

Alas, there is hope; I think, I hope. Just browsing the Linkedin website, I come across hundreds of professionals who profess knowledge of email decorum. A quick Google search finds a plethora of articles on the subject. But in the end, I am convinced that it will be the educator in all of us to let our students, our future professionals, know how important communication is and how vital email etiquette is to their professional development and future. I usually do my best in the most polite fashion to let the   student know first what the mistakes were, and then next how it can be done better. More importantly, I let them know why it matters so much that they get this figured out before they reach the professional world. I sometimes provide links to articles (such as this one from inc.com) so that students do not just hear it from me. Lastly, remember that as Career Services professionals, if we don’t take the time then someone else may.  BECAUSE if u dont…some1 will,  butt it May be 2 LATE!!!!!!!

#TBT…UWF Hosts Second Annual Etiquette Dinner

Kate Hollimon, University of West Florida

In February, the University of West Florida hosted their second annual Etiquette Dinner – Interview Edition.  This event distinguishes itself from a typical Etiquette Dinner as it is the next step beyond learning basic etiquette to application with an employer.   The UWF Career Services offices hosted the Etiquette Dinner – Interview Edition off campus at a local popular restaurant, McGuire’s Irish Pub, to give students a more authentic experience of interviewing over a meal.  Sixteen employers were invited to dine with students and ask them basic interview questions while also providing the students feedback on their interviewing skills.

For students who attended the fall Etiquette Dinner, they were able to put into practice all they had learned regarding interviewing techniques over a meal; however, students shared that they still learned even more from the Interview Edition of the Etiquette Dinner, “[the event] had great tips for what to do to prepare for an interview and what to ask the interviewer.”  Employers responded that they felt similarly regarding the additional training that students received at the dinner, “Thank you so much for allowing me to participate in the UWF interview etiquette dinner this year. This was an excellent event! Participants were provided with invaluable information and practice to ensure success in their future interviews.”

The evening began with a salad course and allowed employers and students to complete introductions.  The main course was served buffet style which was selected intentionally so as to expose students to how to navigate etiquette when going through a buffet line.  After final educational instructions were given regarding further interviewing techniques and etiquette, the dessert course was served.  Over 50 students engaged in the meal saying that they felt they learned valuable information, “I learned a lot and feel as though it will help me in the real world.”

Of all the employers who responded to a survey following the event, they all said they would be very likely or   extremely likely to return next year as a host for the Etiquette Dinner – Interview Edition.  Employers expressed their positive feedback regarding the purpose of the event, “ [we are ] pleased to partner with UWF in preparing students …for success in their employment and business endeavors.”

Because of the positive feedback from both students and employers, it’s a clear demonstration of the need for this type of application event.  UWF Career Services intends to host the event next year with continued plans to host the event off campus at a local community restaurant.