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Guest Blog: Job Fair Offers Hope for Job Seekers

 

By: Paula Cracium from Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch, CA

 

CoP Manager’s Note: Paula recently presented on the plans for the job fair on our May 18, 2012 webinar about job club job fairs. To listen to this webinar click here.  
 

 

When we started out to host a job fair we had no idea what to expect.  We were confident there was a need for a job fair in our community, but beyond that we were a bit lost.  We started by defining what “success” would look like for our job fair.  We anticipated that a large group of people would attend, but we also knew that there was NO way we would be able to find jobs for all of them, so defining success was a crucial part or our planning.

 

We contacted our city and state officials early on – about six months prior to our job fair date -- to 1) share our vision and goals, 2) receive their feedback on whether we were going in the right direction, and 3) make contacts with the local organizations they were aware of that had help people who are out of work.  Through these initial contacts we were directed to organizations like WorkSource, the Valley Economic Alliance, Clothes the Deal and many more.

 

Our vision from the onset was to offer hope for our attendees and ensure that they were more prepared and equipped for employment because they came.  To help accomplish this, we decided to have a “Prepare Fair” the day before the actual job fair.

 

For the “Prepare Fair” we brought in symposium speakers on a number of topics, such as “How to Write a Resume” and “How to Sell Yourself in an Interview.”  We recruited professional hair stylists and make-up artists who volunteered to provide free mini-makeovers that included haircuts, styling, make-up advice and product.  We gathered donations of clothing weeks in advance, organized them, and then gave them out at the Prepare Fair so attendees could look their best to meet their prospective employers the next day.  All of these services were donated to the fair and were free to attendees – from the stylists to the speakers.

 

The day after the Prepare Fair we had about 100 employers and opportunities at our job fair -- as well as a series of free symposiums offered throughout the day.  We did our best to be organized and provide encouragement for the all attendees, which included providing “line coaches” who greeted our guests, helped motivate them and get them excited about meeting the awaiting employers.  Our line coaches also helped prep our job seekers by doing “pop up interviews” in the lines, asking questions and helping them focus on what they wanted to get out of the encounters with the employers.

 

We had about 400 volunteers assist us on both days and saw about 3,500-4,000 people throughout the two day event.

 

I do feel that we were able to offer hope to the attendees and helped find jobs for many.  We saw single moms getting their hair and make-up done for the first time in years and walk away with a newer outfit, feeling so encouraged.  We even met a 30 year old man get the first suit of his life.

 

One young man in particular comes to mind.  He came to our Prepare Fair in baggy clothes, met with our volunteer clothing team, and walked out in a new dress shirt, tie, shoes and slacks, walking tall as he went into the symposiums.  We all applauded him as he walked across our patio – not embarrassed at all, but smiling and strutting all the more.  The next day when he came back for the job fair, he got a job!!  We were all so excited for him.

 

Our volunteers were overwhelmed with the opportunity to serve our community and be a part of a day that literally changed lives.  Many said it was one of the greatest days of their lives.  I think that many people want to feel like they are helping --making a difference with so many hurting and out of work people.  Many just do not know where to start; this job fair gave them that opportunity.

 

In hindsight, we now look back on our first job fair and are pleased that it was a success.  In fact, though we intended it to be a onetime event, we plan to do it again next year!  We’ll be a little wiser the next time around, but the goal will remain the same: to serve our community by doing what we can to give them hope and help them find jobs.

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