Hiring Great Employees and Empowering the Future Workforce: The Align Center for Workforce Development’s third Career Connections Event

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Kristie Mendoza: Welcome, listeners. We are Align Center for Workforce Development and for the next few minutes, we are going to empower, equip, and elevate.I am Kristie Mendoza, a career education navigator.

Kelly McNicol: And I’m Kelly McNichol. Also, a career education navigator. And today we’re going to talk about Algin’s third annual Career Connections job fair. In 2022, Align held their job fair at Adrian College. And just this past March, it was hosted by Siena Heights University.

Get out your calendars. This is your official save-the-date notice. This year’s location is the Christian Family Center, and it will be held on March 21st, 2024. Our event this past March had almost 50 employers from across the region and nearly 300 job seekers, which included high school students, college students who were looking for internships and their first job after college, and community members who were unemployed or underemployed.

Kristie Mendoza: I’d like to speak to the junior and senior high school students out there and explain how we can help prepare them. Attending a job fair is so much more than just handing an employer your resume. It starts with appearance and looking professional. Now, I’m not saying that students need to show up in a suit and tie, but putting in an effort to look presentable is expected.

Next would be a handshake and eye contact. This is an opportunity to introduce yourself and show confidence. If anything, it’s a chance to gain experience and work on your communication skills. Now, keep in mind that some of these employers may even do a quick on-the-spot mini-interview. So, I would have some questions prepared to learn more about the employer and why they would be a great fit for you.

Lastly, I’m a huge believer in sending a follow-up thank you card to anyone that you spoke with. Doing that shows you have initiative and an understanding of what good customer service is like. Remember, attending a job fair is so much more than just, here I am on paper, it’s being able to look employers in the eyes, shake hands, and look and act professionally.

Kelly McNicol: Wow, that is all great information, Kristie. Not only for high school students but really for all attendees. I would even add that if an attendee has spoken to an employer, that they ask for the employer’s business card so they can send a follow-up email or thank you card. Career Connections is a fantastic opportunity for job seekers and employers to meet face-to-face.

The event is meant to benefit both. Attendees will have the chance to explore current job opportunities, network with industry professionals, as well as attend informative workshops to enhance their career development. Employers get to meet an array of potential employees, increase brand awareness, and influence their future workforce.

Let’s talk a little bit more about that last one. At Align, we recognize the importance of employers filling current openings at the job fair. By definition, that is the goal of a job fair. But, employers need to recognize that engaging with attendees of all ages is essential to building a strong employee pipeline.

I want to make sure that this point is stressed to all employers. Last year, I spent some time with students who were in attendance in order to get some immediate feedback. I had one student tell me that she did what I had taught her and put her hand out to introduce herself to an employer, and the student was asked if she was currently looking for a job.

When the student said, not at this time, with no further questions being asked, the person representing the employer turned away from that student without even shaking their hand and began speaking to a different attendee. You can be sure that this student shared this with not just her friends, but her teachers and family members.

Not good for brand awareness or for building that future pipeline. Some of the high school students are there to work on soft skills, while others really are looking for employment.

Kristie Mendoza: Wow, gosh, Kelly, that was a pretty impactful story. I’d say the lesson here for students is to be prepared for all types of interactions.

And for our employers, don’t forget, job fairs are more than just for hiring employees. It’s a time to also build connections and empower the future workforce. These aren’t just people looking for jobs. These are your neighbors, friends, and fellow community members. Well, it’s that time for our call to action.

Students and job seekers, get your resume updated or created, practice your introduction, shake hands, and don’t forget about making eye contact.

Kelly McNicol: And for our employers, it’s time to get registered. Check out Align Center for Workforce Development’s Facebook page and look for the registration link pinned at the top.

You can also reach out to us today at alignlenawee.org And don’t forget, We are Align Center for Workforce Development. Empower. Equip. Elevate.

Narrator: Thank you for listening to the Lenawee Now and Align Center for Workforce Development program. New messages air every Monday at 6:15 pm. For more information on Lenawee Now, visit lenaweenow.org.