My adventures at a job fair (part deuce)

Job fairs are a little like the classic and popular card game of poker. Most everyone I know is familiar with the game, especially the Texas Hold ’em variation. In fact, I have a hidden love of the game, especially when bidding with clay coins or for food. There are different strategies to approach the game to help the player achieve victory. Some names to associate with the strategies could be: the Folder, the Bluffer, the Anything-goes and the Anti-strategist. The folder usually does not play his hand often. He holds his bids tightly, waiting patiently for the right moment to capitalize while denying the advances of the Bluffer, who usually bids higher than he should. The Bluffer lies through his teeth in hopes that he will ensnare the Anything-goes or the wayward Folder. The Anything-goes is usually the beginner. With comparable judgment skills to a drunk driver, the Anything-goes at the table has a lot of fun giving everyone his money/food/clay coins/whatever is being used for bidding. But the game was designed for the Anti-strategist. He watches carefully as everyone tries to employ a strategy to their best advantage, whether they know they are actually utilizing a strategy or not. He quickly conducts a survey of everyone’s employed strategy, composure, and their tells. He then carefully takes everyone for all they are worth and enjoys a wonderful night on the town, rolling in his winnings. Of course, there are the innocent bystanders we’ll call the Watchers. They hold the wallpaper to the wall, make sure the carpet stays down and otherwise have little to do with the game, unless of course, they are obtaining refreshments. Then they fill in the roll of the Providers of Deliciousness and are an essential component of the game. Ok, getting carried away.

And yes, I know, I know. Anti-strategist probably isn’t the best term for what I’m describing. But it works. What? Would you prefer I used “strategist” or “professional” or “tactician”? Too bad. My blog.

So, poker is the game played with cards, but here I’ll be referring to the introduction, or possibly the interview, as the Game: meeting your possible employer for the first time, introducing yourself, landing the interview and following through.

Job fairs are not dissimilar to poker, from what I’ve noticed. There are Folders, Bluffers, Anything-goers and of course the Anti-strategists as well as the other roles of the Watchers and also sometimes the Providers of Deliciousness. And we play the game with the Employers. Well, sort of. It’s not a competition with the employers; it’s a competition with the other possible prospects. In poker, when you win the hand you win the “pot”. Probably short for “honey pot”. So what’s the pot here? A job. A career. A paycheck. Security. A future. Both you and the employer build the pot, together, through a not-so-difficult to use set of strategies. But that’s much further down the road. We just want to get in the door for now.

I will post about each of the individual “strategies” I’ve observed. But for now let’s quickly examine the Employer.

The House is to poker what the Employer is to us. They hold the cards and have an unfair advantage: they’ve played the game against everyone and their mother and KNOW how you function by the time you’ve said your first sentence. Yes, you probably feel like they are judging you too much, but it’s their job. Don’t take it personally. They have training and know how to use it. But we have one advantage: the experience of other people to learn from. So let’s learn…

What do employers look for?

  1. Appearance. A wise and prudent friend once told me: “Dress for the job you want.” Before you even say a word about your “fashionable” hair cut, is it proper and becoming for the job you are applying for? I know those are your “lucky” jeans, but the holes will tell your employer you don’t like to take care of yourself, or your things. Remember to shower? Brush your teeth? Practice posture when you can, it makes a difference! Also, tighten your stomach muscles when walking around in between introductions at the job fair, but not too much! You don’t want to look tired. And don’t forget to smile!!! 🙂
  2. Eye contact. Where are your eyes? When you are talking to people, look them in the eyes. They suddenly are in your game when you have their attention. This is simple and easy. Of course, don’t pierce into their soul or make them feel awkward. To get this down to a simple muscle memory, practice in a mirror. Introduce yourself in the mirror, to yourself, and don’t lose eye contact. Tilt your head a little? Keep it up straight? Does one of your eyebrows shift when smiling? Try to figure out the quirks of your face and become aware of yourself. How can you sell the idea of you working for your potential employer when you barely know yourself? Give it a try. The worst that could happen is you could giggle or laugh a little, and that’s actually a good thing.
  3. Good handshake. Don’t try to rip the Employer’s hand off, ok? Just let them know you’re alive and that you want to meet them. Enthusiasm is a muscle, exercise it. A good handshake is invigorating but doesn’t shake the other person’s shoulder.
  4. Have your presentation (yes, your introduction is a presentation) prepared. Know what you’re applying for, know what you’re capable of and know what you want to say. This makes you look like you’ve spent time preparing, which the Employers hope you have done. An Anything-goer doesn’t usually find much success in this market, but more on that later.
  5. Follow through. When the introduction or interview is over make sure you follow through. For introductions, wait a day or two. The Employer has had a LOT of information come his way in the last few hours. You may be ready to get the interview scheduled but he may not. When you get the interview lined up, wait at least 3-5 days. Employers don’t usually give out one introduction and mull over it. They interview multiple possible prospects and have, again, a LOT of information to go over. Calling every day is a sure way to become annoying and NOT receive a call back! Patience is a virtue.

These are only the words of an uneducated man and any and all information is purely the observations of one individual.


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