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The youth organizations of today are helping to develop the workers, parents and leaders of tomorrow. And one of the best ways youth organizations can prepare our nation's young people for a successful future is by partnering with local colleges and businesses to sponsor a joint college and career fair. This is a wonderful opportunity to get the youth you serve in front of employers and acquaint them with some options for post-secondary education. When organizing such an event, keep these four best practices in mind:

Include Presentations From Both Colleges and Employers

Invite participation from local colleges, universities, career colleges and trade schools as well as business owners, and give these sponsors equal time to present themselves during your event. For employers, a career fair is a publicity and recruiting opportunity, and helping them make the most of this opportunity increases their incentive to participate. For students, this also sends the important message that getting a good job and continuing your education go hand-in-hand.

Create and distribute fliers and other promotional materials that explain to educational and business sponsors how the presentations will work and the benefits their organizations will receive. Also create a flier to be distributed to student attendees, making sure to include a map of sponsor booths and a list of scheduled speakers.

Showcase Career Advancement Opportunities

Encourage employers to speak about the career advancement opportunities at their companies, and ask college representatives to demonstrate how a post-secondary education will help youth get a better job after graduation. Doing so will make your event sponsors more attractive to the youth in attendance.

That's because millennials place a high priority on career development, according to a survey conducted by the online training platform Mindflash.(1) In fact, the millennials surveyed identified lack of company support for training and development as the most surprising part of working in today's job environment, and 88 percent said they would be willing to personally invest in their own skills training and professional development. Employers who offer management training programs and school reps who can demonstrate increased career opportunities stand to attract greater interest from attendees.

Have Students Bring Resumes

Organize a pre-fair resume-writing workshop. Show young people how to research the employers who will be attending, and have them prepare at least two resumes for each employer who interests them. Students who have multiple career interests should bring different versions of their resume. Stress the importance of creating resumes that include phrases taken from job postings using industry jargon as keywords, so they can be scanned directly into employer databases for automated analysis.

Prepare Participants for On-the-Spot Interviews

For both students and employers, the highest value of a career fair comes from the opportunity for recruitment interviews. To help students prepare for this, offer interview preparation workshops especially geared toward the types of interviews common at career fairs.

CollegeGrad explains that there are three main types of career fair interviews:(2)

  • The most common type is a screening interview, which typically lasts two to three minutes and is conducted to gather resumes, evaluate first impressions and determine whether to pursue the next step. Students should prepare for screening interviews by rehearsing a 30-second elevator pitch summarizing what they offer employers and by preparing to answer basic questions about their interests, along with what type of position they're seeking.
  • Students who pass screening interviews may be invited to participate in mini-interviews. These are five- to 10-minute interviews conducted at employers' booths for the purpose of reviewing the items on their resumes. Students should prepare for mini-interviews by rehearsing a fuller description of their background and what they offer employers, preparing to elaborate on each item contained in their resume, anticipating other questions employers may ask. They should also be prepared to ask for a business card at the end of the interview and inquire about the next step.
  • Finally, there are full interviews, lasting 20-30 minutes. These are similar to regular job interviews, and the preparation is similar as well. To get invited to this type of interview, students will need to perform well on the previous two levels of the interview process, so due preparation should be given to these preliminary steps in interview workshops.

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Resources: (1) Mindflash (2) CollegeGrad