Traditionally, when looking for a job, there were two options:
- Submit your application/resume - which reduces you to words on a page and often leaves you with no feedback on why you weren't selected for a job, and
- Job fairs - which require you to jostle among a number of other job seekers and, if you live off the beaten path (as I do), to drive several hours to get to the venue.
Thanks to technology, there is now a third option--virtual career fairs. These are becoming increasingly more popular and are appealing to jobseekers and companies because they allow access to a broader, less locality-restrictive employee/employment pool and require little to no cost. For servicemembers stationed outside CONUS or individuals willing to relocate, they are particularly helpful.
I recently "attended" my first virtual career fair and here's what I learned:
- Be prepared: There were a number of jobseekers who entered the chat sessions and simply said, "Here I am; what have you got for me?" That's a poor approach to anything job-related, especially in an environment where you have a lot of jobseekers looking for the recruiters' attention. In almost every job fair I've seen, the list of participating employers is available in advance of the event. In the virtual job fair I attended, you could even search currently available jobs for the participating companies. Doing a little research beforehand will maximum the limited time you get with recruiters and increase your chances of getting the job you want.
- Good insight: While companies often post contact information and details about their company on their websites, not all information, especially about available positions, is publicly available. The recruiters, however, have this insight and are more than willing to provide it. Which jobs are hot right now, where their sales jobs versus their manufacturing jobs are located, how many veterans they employ, which job in their company most closely matches your military careerfield, whether they require a degree for entry level positions, how long their hiring process is, any special programs they have for transitioning military, what kind of certifications are required for a specific job, and who to call if you haven't gotten a response to your application are all questions I saw answered at the virtual career fair I attended.
- Contacts: Perhaps most important of all, you find out who you should be talking to. A number of the companies at the fair I attended had military recruiters, personnel specifically tasked with recruiting servicemembers and veterans and specially equipped to understand how your military skills translate to that company. Even better, they were handing out their direct contact information. Even companies without dedicated military recruiters were providing information on who handles reasonable accommodations or minority populations or a certain region--all good information for a jobseeker to have.
If you're looking for a job and haven't yet "attended" your own virtual career fair, I've compiled a list of upcoming fairs. While there are numerous other virtual career fairs out there, I have specifically focused on the ones targeting servicemembers, veterans, and milspouses, as well as those that aren't focused on that population specifically, but are still closely applicable, such as those for individuals with disabilities and those looking for individuals with security clearances.
All times Eastern:
23 Feb 2016, 9am-6pm- Diversity Career Fair (While this is not a veteran-specific career fair, I have included it because it will feature businesses willing to hire individuals with varied backgrounds and, in many cases, well-versed in providing reasonable accommodations)
24 Feb 2016, 8am-12pm- MOAA Career Fair (Suggested additions to your profile: resume, photo, LinkedIn link)
25 Feb 2016- AbilityLinks (This is specifically for people with disabilities)
3 Mar 2016, 3-8pm- U.S. Intelligence Community (Will feature the various organizations that make up the U.S. Intelligence Community and will be focused on jobs that will require a clearance, or the ability to obtain one.)
8 Mar 2016, 7-10am- Virtual Job Scout (This is held in conjunction with a transition summit for servicemembers in Germany and is geared mostly towards those individuals, though there isn't any prohibition on other servicemembers or veterans attending.)
9 Mar 2016, 1-4pm- Home Base Iowa Military Career Fair (Primarily focused on Iowa based employers)
9 Mar 2016, 1-3pm- Women Veterans Career Fair (Part of the Women Veterans Job Initiative to hire 20,000 women veterans by 2018)
11 Mar 2016, 7-10am - Virtual Job Scout (This is held in conjunction with a transition summit for servicemembers in Germany and is geared mostly towards those individuals, though there isn't any prohibition on other servicemembers or veterans attending.)
15 Mar 2016, 8am-8pm - Bender Disabilities Job Fair (Focused on students and alumni from 2 and 4-year colleges who have disabilities; over 35 companies attending)
16 Mar 2016 - Social Security Administration Virtual Job Fair (In order to register, you must be eligible for SSA and go through the Ticket to Work program. You will need to contact your state Vocational Rehabilitation or Employment Network counselor to get registered. You can find more information on the Ticket to Work program here.)
16 Mar 2016, 1-3pm - DAV MBA Veterans Fair (This one is specifically for veterans who have at least a bachelor's degree.)
23 Mar 2016, 1-3pm - California Veterans Virtual Career Fair (This is focused on introducing veterans to California-based employers.)
30 Mar 2016, 12-4pm - Online Education Fair for Veterans (This isn't a traditional job fair. However, I am including it because education is often a key component in obtaining your dream job.)
7 Apr 2016, 1-3pm - Pennsylvania Veterans Virtual Career Fair (This is focused on introducing veterans to Pennsylvania-based employers.)
19 Apr 2016, 11am-3pm - The Big Virtual - Q1! Veteran Career Fair (For servicemembers, veterans, and individuals with a security clearance.)
20 Apr 2016, 1-4pm - Veteran Recruiting Virtual Career Fair (Open to military, veterans, and milspouses.)
23 Apr 2016, 7-10am - Virtual Job Scout (This is held in conjunction with a transition summit for servicemembers in Italy and is geared mostly towards those individuals, though there isn't any prohibition on other servicemembers or veterans attending.)