A Tale of Two Job Fairs

(Originally posted at LeahsGotIt.blogspot.com)

Here’s the part where I get around to talking about the fairs I’ve attended this week.

Monday’s event, the IndyHires fair at the downtown Sheraton was kind of a fly-by. The fair was scheduled from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., but I work at 1 on the north side of Indy. I had to be quick about things.

This was OK, though. The fair was, in all honesty, disappointingly small. Not in terms of turnout, by any means. The line of attendees waiting to register stretched all the way out the conference-area doors, across the downstairs lobby, up the stairs, and into the main level lobby of the Sheraton. But the only exhibitor that held much real hope for a near-future job placement was Express Employment. One temp agency. Besides that, there were recruiters for independent-contractor sales jobs with Culligan and Aflac, the National Guard, one radio station, and about four colleges trying to recruit for fall classes. That’s… it.

The huge turnout of employment-hopefuls obviously speaks to our area’s current depressed economic climate, but it also speaks well of LocalHires’ prowess at marketing themselves. Kudos from this young marketing pro.

I just really, really wish there had been more resources available once all these hopefuls showed up. I, personally, did get in some good networking with a few attendees and the radio station’s representative. I do wonder at the low exhibitor turnout. Did Localhires just focus lopsidedly on getting seekers to show up, but not as much on recruiting exhibitors? Was booth rental too high? I have a hard time believing that the number of companies looking to hire in Indianapolis is THAT low, or that local businesses are THAT apathetic. Quite to the contrary. In recent weeks, I’ve made acquaintance with several business owners and managers, all of which are quite the movers and shakers who I’m proud to know. (not to mention hopeful of the potential for a good future helped by these acquaintances.)

In any case, I’m not giving up on LocalHires. I still maintain a profile on their site. They really are relatively new on the block, and maybe future fairs will be less disappointing. But let’s just say I put a lot more weight on the LinkedIn and Twitter fronts, this blog, and good old-fashioned face-to-face.

The Indianapolis Small Business Fair on Tuesday, on the other hand… This place was made of epic win.

I had literally NO time to prepare for this one, as I heard about it around 11:00 p.m. Monday night. Events and exhibition were scheduled to go from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. I don’t have a small business, or necessarily plan on starting one any time soon, but I thought it would be a good place to do some networking. That thought was a HUGE understatement.

I preface the rest of this post by admitting the “Networking”-word always kind of made my stomach a little crawly-feeling in the past. I had this conception of stodgy, boring people in suits, passing around business cards and talking about tea or golf or some productivity-jargon buzzword. Because, well, I’m sorry… but all my experiences with this kind of thing in Evansville *were* boring. I’m so glad to have my conceptions shattered on that front.

I’d heard that Kyle from Brandswag would be there, but sadly, I didn’t get to stick around for his seminar. Work at 1, and all that. From what I’ve heard about Kyle, and read on his own blog, he sounds like a greatly interesting person, and I hope to get to meet him at some point.

Of course, interesting people were common company at the Indy Small Business Fair. Susan from Business in Blue Jeans chatted me up at her table, just before I had to leave for work and she was due to give her seminar. What a treasure this woman and her husband both are! (And here is the part where I shamelessly plug her website and free E-newsletter. Get thee over and check ‘em out!) But in seriousness, she really did give me some great nuggets of advice. As close by as she is, I hope to stay in touch.

Ditto for the Knight Surfer. This guy’s a peach. Eclectic, kind, creative, and generous with help.

I really can’t even get into the names of all the genuinely good and helpful people I got to speak with. Resume’ advice, opinions on the best professional-networking groups, interview tips, name-sharing for even more network connections, and (well, duh) advice for if I do decide to start my own business, all flowed generously. By the time I left, I was all out of my own business cards, and my handbag was heavy with other people’s. And my planner was all inked-up with upcoming networking meet-ups and breakfasts. The one with the most glowing review was BPE, where I’m planning to attend my first meeting this coming Monday at 7 a.m.

It appears that these two events just exemplify a difference in substance between a “job fair” versus a “career fair.” I know which type I’ll be seeking out from here on.