Post-Fair Blues

fairI recently got a comment on the Recession pages of the blog reflecting on the frustrations of attending the recruitment fairs. Click here to see what Rajat originally wrote, but I thought the response might be pertinent to quite a few of you, so I’ll address it here with some extracts from his comments.

Rajat’s first point:
“[Employers] want to go to fairs, but not hire graduates easily. These organisations are trying to be soft with students … but from a political perspective they are trying to keep up GOOD IMAGE.”

The fairs aren’t always the best barometer of the graduate and postgraduate recruitment market. We do hear stories of some organisations turning up, just to keep their profile high, with no real intention of recruiting, but these all seem pretty difficult to verify – not sure whether it’s reality or urban myth. Most recruiters are pretty hard nosed – it costs them, in time and money, to attend fairs and deal with all the enquiries and applications that generates. It’s not something most would do if they were sure they wouldn’t be recruiting at all.

Second point:
“Big career fairs help few. Though I’m not saying that big fairs should not be there, but is it really helping students to get a job?”

One really important point about the fairs is that the vast majority of grads and particularly postgrads will get jobs with organisations who don’t go to any fairs. That’s really only the shop window for large organisations with multiple vacancies. If you want to get into these organisations, it’s a good idea to talk to them directly (can give you the edge over those who haven’t) which is why we work hard to attract as many employers to Manchester as possible. However, for many postgrads, they will be working in specialisms where employers have only 1 or 2 vacancies – not enough to justify the cost of going to a fair. That’s where direct applications, using contacts and keeping an eye on one-off adverts is much more likely to pay off – which luckily is what Rajat did: “Personally I got my internship from different channel than fairs!”

Third point:
“International students: I’m one of them and companies which never had VISA restrictions have also come with rules this year- reducing flexibility and opportunities.”

This is a very fair point. As soon as it became apparent that we were heading into economic difficulties in the UK, careers advisers started pushing the message that our international students had to seriously look at trying to find work back home. We knew that breaking into the UK recruitment market would get a whole lot tougher for our international students, in spite of the easing of work permit restrictions. Many of our international students come with ambitions of working for one of the big internationally known brands (particularly the investment banks) but these were often the organisations hit hardest by the financial crisis. To be honest though, they’re also the most competitive organisations to get into even in a boom year, and it’s only a tiny minority of students who get into them when they do have jobs to offer.

Want to know a secret? As careers advisers there was almost a sense of relief that the state of the economy was going to make it easier for international (and home) students to accept that they should at least have a serious back up plan, in case they didn’t get a graduate training scheme place with Multinational X. In the boom years, many saw it as a major failure or embarassment if they didn’t get one of these, in spite of the very long odds.

So what should you do if you’re also feeling the post-fair blues? One thing is to take comfort in the stats (yes, I’m back on that hobby horse):

We received more new job ads (for full time jobs) at the Careers Service for June 2009 than for June 2008.

We’re not saying it’s not tough, but the graduate job market (at least for this university’s graduates) seems to be holding up rather better than you might believe from other reports.

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One comment on “Post-Fair Blues

  1. Dear Elizabeth,

    Thank you for citing important issues and statistically defencing the need for job fairs.

    Now, let’s shift our perspepective from a problem state to a solution state and bend ourselves to make a winning strategy for students of ‘Uni of Manchester’.

    ‘Getting a job in Uni is a privilige’, were wisdomic words of the recruitment officer, when I was finishing my undergraduate studies. But, then every effort was made to bring organisations to campus and recruit students. Also, within a span of 4 years, the number of organisations entering the campus rose from 6 to 160. Later, students had opportunity to choose more than one job! As I was assisting the career cell for sometime, I’m giving out these stats. Later, when I was working, I was also interviewing few candidates and know how difficult it gets for an organisation to take a person with exact skill sets. It has to be quick and with minimum investments. To be true, it could unrealistic during bad times!

    From the stories above, what I really wanted to say is that I have personally seen spaces from both the ends and know the difficulties. This is a different country, with different situations, but one should look at windows of opportunities. Now, if we unite together as a team and talk about options and routes, which can help students to focus and re-analyse the gaps, we can have few more victories.

    From your experiences, if you could draw out different ways and channels which have helped students to get jobs, it will be incredibly helpful. I would appreciate your help so far, but I would also like to invite participations from- experienced career service team members, students (Alumni, current students with jobs, students with different set of helpful ideas), industires, industry engagement directors, teachers and many leaders around us. Why not form a rich pool of knowledge and keep revitalising it with time. By then we would have incrementally taken a step further and lead the entire league of universities in UK with students coming out with flying colours.

    Let’s get on a mission and grab the honey pot!

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