Virtual Career Fairs, A Strategy

Hey everybody, I’m Brian Clapp VP of Content and Engaged Learning at WorkInSports.com and this is the Work In Sports podcast… 

For those of you who haven’t listened to last week’s podcast with Zach Maurides, go listen to it. Seriously, now. Stop listening and start there first.  

Zach is the founder and CEO of Teamworks an athlete engagement platform that is currently working with over 100 professional sports teams and 200 full college athletic programs to be their student-athlete hub, managing their schedules, communication, itineraries, academics, nutrition and so much more.  

They are growing massively, and Zach, as a former student-athlete, an offensive lineman at duke, is so incredibly informative.  

Not convinced – I’ll give you one nugget, one concept of many that Zach shares during this awesome podcast interview. 

“I want to hire confident people. Confident people put in the work, and know they are going to win because they put in the work. Arrogant people just expect to win. We don’t want arrogant people.” 

Now picture this coming out of a 6’6” 290 lb. former offensive lineman, trust me when I say this — you are going to feel fired up and ready to put in the work.  

Ok, Wednesday – the godfather of sports business, seriously, I think you must kiss his ring before getting into the sports industry, Dr. Bill Sutton.  

For those of you who don’t know doc Sutton, he is the smartest most connected guy in the #sportsbiz I know. And more importantly, the most passionately supportive of his people. He has trained the best in the industry from GMs to sales directors, and he’s not just an academic, he’s worked for David Stern in the NBA and countless other organizations as part of his side hustle consulting business.  
 
One quick story – he and I really hit it off, it’s a great interview, and at the end, he said, “that was a lot of fun, I loved your questions and the way our conversation went, who else can I help you get to be a guest on your show?”  

Figuring I could aim high since he is offering, I said: “Would you happen to know Scott O’Neil, CEO of the Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment, the owners of the Sixers and Devils, I really like his style and would love to interview him?”  

Within 30 minutes of the completion of our interview, Scott O’Neil emailed me to book a time.  

Now that is legit power.  

Sports Career Question from Amy in Boston:

Let’s get into today’s question, which comes from Amy in Boston. Fun Fact, if I was a girl, I was going to be named Amy.  

“Hey Brian, big fan of the podcast and your various articles, I feel like I’ve gone back through your archive so many times to answer my pressing career-focused questions. What I think is great is that your show isn’t just about sports, it’s about culture, and decision-maker and planning and strategy…I find it so informative.  

Amy – you get me. Continue.  

“My question is pretty simple: I got pretty good at the career fair circuit in late 2019, I had a good flow, made lots of contacts, felt like I was on the edge of getting hired… and then, you know, stuff. I’ve seen and heard a lot about virtual career fairs but am yet to attend one. Do you think they are worth it, and do you have any strategies surrounding them?” 

Amy, I’ll be honest, at first, my initial impression of virtual career fairs was that they felt like a pivot for companies that used to rely on in-person career fairs, and they just to keep themselves busy and active. That they weren’t focused on the participant getting value, either as an employer or candidate.  

But oh, how wrong I was.  

See I can admit it, I have flawed theories sometimes. Neither Ivan Drago or I am machines. Yes, that was a Rocky IV reference which is about 20 years past its relevancy date…but I love it so. 

Benefits of Virtual Career Fairs 

The data is in, more people attend virtual career fairs than in-person career fairs, even prior to the pandemic!  

So, what does this mean?

It means employers are getting value, so expect them to continue. And if they are going to continue, you should really have an approach and strategy, which is what you’ve asked for Amy and we will get there. 

Who are throwing these virtual shindigs? 

More and more companies are throwing these events into their recruiting mix because the results have been strong. With positive results comes expansion. We are seeing more local chambers of commerce and focused industry groups throwing virtual career fairs as well.  

The other major benefit of virtual career fairs is the scalability and the focus, you as an employer or candidate should zero in on what makes sense, don’t go general. A virtual career fair held by a sports marketing organization is more likely to bear fruit than a virtual career fair hosted by the city of Houston.  

Another benefit before we get into the strategy, scheduling.

At a traditional in-person career fair, you may have to squeeze yourself into a conversation and crowbar yourself towards attention. 

At a virtual fair, you schedule time slots with employers and are either part of small groups or get one-on-one time to connect, inquire, impress, and network. No distractions, no fighting for time, a cleaner more connected experience for you. 

Ok, let’s get into the plan! 

Strategy for Virtual Career Fairs

1: Do Your Homework  

Analyze each opportunity, don’t become like Edward Norton in Fight Club attending every support group he could find. Ok, that’s my second old movie reference, but Fight Club is iconic, so that’s ok.  

You should see that movie if you haven’t, my free advice for your life.  

Seriously, be selective, and that goes not just for the event but for your time spent there as well. Study the event, know the employers, and categorize them into groups. 

My suggestion — export the list of attending employers into a spreadsheet, add three columns, and label them: extremely interested, moderately interested, not interested. 

Put each employer into a group – for those you are extremely interested in, try your best to schedule one on one time with them. For moderately, be willing to do a group session, for not interested, ignore.  

Don’t wing it, prepare. 

2: Watch or Listen to the Pre-Event Webinar

Look I’m not a “read the entire instructions at IKEA” type of guy. I tend to wing it a little more often than I should. BUT, in an instance like this, which is an important, new experience and could lead to great career opportunities, I’d be prepared for this experience. 

Most of the virtual career events, have a pre-event which will explain how things will work day-of including will it be on zoom, teams, skype etc.? 

You want to feel comfortable, not guessing, on the day of the event. Put in the time.  

3: Which Leads to the Tech Question 

  • No mobile devices, get on your laptop or desktop.  
  • No WIFI, get on a wired, stable connection.  
  • Have lighting in your face, so recruiters can see you.  
  • Have a good mic and webcam.  
  • You also want to have zoom, skype or teams set up and tested beforehand – whatever they are using.  

4: Share on LinkedIn that You are Going to Attend the Virtual Career Fair  

Companies love to be mentioned on LinkedIn, and the people running the career fair will love to be mentioned. They are likely to amplify what your post, giving you added exposure.

Even better, if you know a specific person at a specific company who is going to be there, connect with them, and tell them you are excited to speak further during the virtual career fair.  

I’ve done about 300 panels and college speeches, and one time, literally, one time someone pre-hit me up.  
 
Max Chan — “Hi Brian! I’ll be attending today’s professional development session hosted by Chris Grosse and am looking forward to hearing from you. Hope to connect here as well and sending my best wishes! “ 

This is what it takes to make a good first impression. 

5: Eye Contact in the Camera 

6: Follow up Questions All Around You 

7: Follow Up and Connect

8: Send Handwritten Cards

About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the sports media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently, Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, do it.

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