Austin Career Fair

Wednesday, November 04th, 10am-2pm, Norris Conference Center, Austin, TX.

“Naga… Naga… Not gonna” go to this one… [1]

I won’t be attending the Austin Career Fair. The site is kind of generic, but they run career fairs in a lot of cities, so that’s not all that surprising. When I went to pre-register for the event, things started to look a little spammy.

  • The first clue was that they don’t have very many companies listed for attendance. The ones that are listed seem to be the type that will will only have blue-collar jobs. The most professional things I saw listed were all sales jobs.
  • Second, they wanted a lot of information about me. They really shouldn’t need more than just my name and one piece of contact information (email or phone), but they wanted a lot of personal information.
  • So, I went in search of a privacy policy and could not find one. It’s possible, of course, that they don’t know how privacy policies work or that they need one. After all, I get emails every week from well-meaning entrepreneurs that don’t follow the standards of CAN-SPAM. Still, whether they are harvesting contact information to sell or just ignorant about the proper way to collect this type of information, I won’t share with them until I know their real intentions.

I know that they are also struggling. I know the economy hurts job fairs, too. The real problem however, I think, is that they have not changed with the times. People are not finding jobs at Career Fairs any more. They are networking and making personal contacts. They are volunteering and becoming more active in their professional organizations.

What if….

What if career fairs incorporated some of this stuff?

  • a 30-minute workshop on something that can apply to a wide range of people. One topic might be Twitter and Social Media and how that can enhance your job search.
  • a 30-minute networking opportunity with vendors. There could be one before the trade-show part of the fair starts, another mid-day, and another later in the afternoon.
  • a volunteer opportunity at the fair. There are all kinds of clean projects that could be adapted to work table-top and for short/quick tasks.
  • name tags could be coded (colored stickers would work) to help both vendors and job seekers scan the room more quickly. Codes could be for things like full-time vs part/temp/seasonal, required vs. held degrees, industries, etc. My stickers could be an apple (teaching), a magenta mortar board (master’s degree), a pen/paper (writing/editing), and a camera (photography).
  • evening sessions to attract people who already have a job but are looking for a change. If career fairs are only held during the day, then they ensure that the vast majority of their attendants are currently out of work. An evening session would increase the quality of candidates, which would probably attract a better quality of vendors, too.

I’m sure there are a lot of innovative things career fairs could do to increase their quality all the way around. It’s sad that they seem stuck in a model that worked in the mid-80s.

[1] source: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0151804/quotes “Bob Porter: We’re gonna be getting rid of these people here… First, Mr. Samir Naga… Naga… Naga… Not gonna work here anymore, anyway.”

Information Technology Career Fair

The IT Career Fair, hosted by Texas Workforce Solutions, was a nice little event. Attendees had to be vetted to enter, which helped keep the crowd not only semi-manageable in size (as best they can with so many out of work IT professionals in this city), but also kept the environment much more professional. I appreciate the extra work TWC put into making sure this would have a career feel and not just a job feel.

The event was tiny. There were perhaps 15 organizations in attendance. The fair room was so small that they had to let us in in waves. Even that was too crowded for my tastes. Maybe when my schedule allows, I’ll try to attend closer to the middle or end of the next fair.

Most of the jobs were for programmers, so there was not anything there that was a fit for me, but it was on my way to Launch Pad, so it didn’t take a significant amount of my time to stop by.

I am sad to say that I didn’t meet anyone at this event. I was on time for the event and waited in a large group for them to let us in. And, 9am is “early” in this city. Still, everyone seemed extremely focused, to the point of tunnel vision. I’d have liked the chance to make a connection or two.

I wish the other seekers had seemed friendlier.  Here’s my little piece of advice for anyone job searching. You will go in the door with a more positive attitude if you engage in friendly conversation while you wait. Hardly anyone there is your real competition for that job. What are the odds you are going to chat it up with someone with your exact same skill set?

I guess the Job Club mindset is rubbing off on me. 🙂

Employment Guide Austin Job Fair

Well, this fair was nothing like I had hoped. I wanted to believe that the slight lifts I’ve seen the economy (including a resurgence of job postings) that this fair would be better than the others I’ve attended and hear about. I was wrong.

You know it’s bad when:

  • Within just a few minutes of the start time, people are already leaving.
  • The woman running check-in ignores a registrant to talk to the guy from New Jersey who interrupted us. I didn’t even get the bag of marketing stuff.
  • The first table is the big/local bio research firm seeking study participants; ironically, they’ve also had some layoffs.
  • The next table is Mary Kay giving away free lip gloss and signing up more distributors.
  • Half the tables in the room are unused. There were only 12-15 companies in the room.
  • People are horrifically under dressed.
  • When I stopped at the table for IT jobs, the woman asked me if I knew what IT was.
  • At least one guy had a kid in a stroller with him.

Lesson learned: If it says “job fair”, it’s probably not going to be “career” worthy.

I was reminded of another fair an IT Career Fair (which I had received an email about). If I can work it into my busy Friday, I’ll attend that one.

ASTD Austin

I was a member of the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) when I lived in the Brazos Valley and found the group to have some good things to offer.

When we found out we’d be moving to Austin, I was excited by the opportunity to attend programs here. Larger cities—especially those with a full-size airport—almost always have an easier time getting good speakers.

Today, I attended my first meeting of this group and found that they met my hopes and expectations!

The topic for today was training and personality. While the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) was old information for me, it was a great refresher on content I had not considered in a while. It was also nice to see a training-presentation based on a real personality inventory/system rather than some of the “cute” ones that some trainers like to use. The cute ones can be more fun, but in my experience, they don’t offer much to improve the ability to work with others.

Most important of all, our speaker, Jeff Johannigman of People Type Consulting, made sure to apply our learning of the MBTI to the training environment, focusing on how to train people who are different than the instructor.

I attend as many professional development programs as I can. After all, you never know where you are going to meet your next boss or hear something that triggers a fabulous new idea. However, I did not realize how much I had missed hearing real professionals speak/present. While very few of the programs I’ve attended since moving to Austin had weak presenters, it was still quite refreshing to hear someone with such a talent for presentation.

Thank you, Jeff. I hope to hear you again and again.

Lori Luza

My Story

I thought I’d begin this blog with a little history of me—more than what the cover letter and resume can tell, anyway.

I’m the daughter of two teachers. I was lucky enough to inherit teaching talents from both my parents. My mom spent most of her career teaching 2nd grade and later became a Counselor, working with all age groups. My dad taught high school business courses until he became a principal for a K-8 campus.

My first official teaching experience was when I was nine years old. I had been in children’s theater the year before. During the summer, our theater coach was also a swim instructor. She lived conveniently near us, so I was able to walk or bike to “work”. While she taught the class from the deck where everyone could see her, each of us, as a teacher’s assistant, would work with one child to complete the exercise in the water. With the tiniest of students, we would bob under water and blow bubbles or count fingers. With other age groups, we’d lead them across the pool while they worked on their kick or developed a stroke. In exchange for being the personal swimming instructor for a much younger child, I got free swimming lessons and advanced my own technique and learned some diving and even synchronized swimming. Once I met the age qualifications, I became a certified swim instructor. Many of my summers from high school to college were spent teaching kids to swim.

I was also involved in music; I played the flute. I practiced a lot and sat first chair most years. Later, I also became Drum Major. Both of these experiences required not just leadership, but also management and instruction.

In college, I was lucky to find both the campus Volunteer Services Center and the campus leadership program. I took every class I could (all were free and not for credit) and applied for leadership roles within the volunteer organizations I had joined. The leadership classes enhanced my teaching skills while campus involvement and volunteer service gave me a chance to apply the learning. Just a few months before graduation, I was offered a full-time job with the university. I was responsible for all the training and support for a document imaging system that was implemented to help convert the campus to a paperless environment. While in that role, I pursued a Master’s degree in higher education.

After finishing my the graduate coursework, I took a job at another university’s help desk and learning center. I had a much wider audience to support, so I had many more responsibilities in training and teaching.

When I relocated back to my home state, I did so with the intent of pursuing more graduate work. I earned a College Teaching Certificate from Texas A&M University’s Educational Administration and Human Resource Development department.

In virtually every job I have had, I have written instruction manuals and trained others. I have always been the go-to person for software and other technical questions. There are two reasons colleagues approach me with these types of questions.

  • I may already know the answer or can probably figure it out.
  • More importantly, I’m an incredibly patient teacher. I know that everyone can not do everything. A little help goes a long way, especially if it’s an infrequent task.

Everyone—regardless of age or experience or education—has something to learn. Those who keep an open mind can learn.

Lori Luza