By Vincent Duffy, RTDNA Chairman
It’s that time of year again. Graduating seniors, recent graduates, and folks looking for broadcasting careers are hitting the job fairs held at journalism conferences and broadcasting schools across the nation.
Broadcast stations participate in these job fairs whether they have positions open or not, because it helps them meet their EEO requirements enforced by the FCC. I’m sure it happens, but I don’t personally know anyone who was hired into a full time position from a broadcasting job fair. My station, however, has hired interns we met at job fairs, and some of those interns have turned their internship into a job, so the fairs are not a complete waste of time.
My first job fair of this season is next Wednesday. For a couple of hours I will stand behind a table and shake hands and accept resumes from a parade of people while other hopeful job seekers stand in line behind them. It’s like a cruel form of speed dating because you can’t even be sure I’m actually looking for a date.
The key to a successful job fair for applicants is to stand out from the crowd, either with your experience, your awesome work samples, or just plain charisma and people skills. What you don’t want to do is be remembered for the wrong reasons. What are the wrong reasons? I’ve listed five here. These things have all actually happened more than once, and you can learn from the mistakes of others.
1- Don’t show up at the table with your mom and dad. Seriously, I understand that you don’t have a job and maybe your parents had to drive you to the job fair, but find them a place to sit down, buy them a cup of coffee, and give them your iphone and show them how to play Temple Run. Unless your parents plan to come to work with you every day, I don’t need to meet them or have them answer questions about you.
2- Don’t tell me your dream is to work in television, but you’re willing to work in radio “to get your start.” Think about it. That’s kind of insulting. You are not going to be my first choice if I feel like I’m your second choice. The folks who work at my station happen to think working in radio is pretty cool, and we’re not doing it to bide our time until we can finally get into TV.
3- Don’t look too relaxed. Yes it’s radio, but appearances still matter. You don’t need to wear your interview suit to a job fair (although it won’t hurt), but you should look professional. How you look indicates how seriously you take yourself, and the job fair. Guys, while that vintage KISS t-shirt may be a conversation starter, it doesn’t reflect well on your maturity. Ladies, you’re looking for a job, not a date or a dance partner. Dress for the job fair like you would dress for work. It should go without saying that you should use deodorant and not too much perfume or cologne, but some guys still walk up to the table smelling all “fierce” like they just finished a shift at Abercrombie and Fitch.
4- Don’t hand me newspaper clips or music air checks. If I am going to hire anyone from a job fair, it’s going to be someone who can demonstrate they know how to do what we do at our station, which is radio news. It’s not impossible for a print reporter or a music host to be hired at our station, but you don’t want to try and get my attention in the same hour that scores of other people have handed me examples of exactly the type of work we do.
5- Don’t open with a corny line. Somewhere out there are counselors who keep telling people to introduce themselves with a clever, confident statement such as: “I’m going to be your next morning drive host,” or “I am the answer to your stations problems,” or (my favorite) “I want your job.” I wish those counselors would stop. If you want to impress me, compliment me on something my station has done and tell me you’d love to be able to do that kind of work.
A job fair is not the best place to get a job, but they are not a waste of time. You can use job fairs to find out what sort of work is done at stations in your market, find out what sort of skills news directors look for in new hires, and begin steps in networking with professionals in the industry. They are tailor made for you to have a chance to meet people and be remembered, just make sure you’re not remembered for the wrong things.