Today, I attended Murray State University's Fall Career Fair. As a non-traditional student, I admit that I almost talked myself out of this one. Thankfully, I gathered my courage and went ahead. It's one case where being older did feel intimidating - to me. I assumed I would be the only student in my age range at the event - and I was not wrong. But my thinking was all wrong, since my age was a completely unimportant issue. I also worried the exhibitors might be interested in only talking to undergrads seeking entry level careers. I was wrong again. Despite my initial misgivings, I made some valuable connections. Lesson learned: Attend any event that garners you professional exposure and networking opportunities.
Employers are looking for talent, knowledge and self-confidence - in every instance. Regardless of your age or experience - whether you are a grad student or undergrad, 20-something or 40-something, seasoned professional or neophyte - you can benefit by making a trial run at an event like a job expo or career fair. It's a terrific opportunity to network, get a refresher for writing your best resume or practice interview techniques. The recruiters at these events are there to provide you with information. It's their job!
MSU's career day was well attended by both students and potential employers. In just over an hour, I found six companies and spoke with representatives. I chose to leave resumes with three of the potentials. That may sound like a small number to some, but keep in mind that I am purposely being picky about my unique situation. (For any fellow students who attended the MSU event, note that it is also a good idea to follow up with thank you notes or emails to the people you met with. Hint. Hint.)
Sites for Employment and Career Assistance:
- Career Info Net (http://www.careerinfonet.org) This site helps you to explore career opportunities and to make informed employment and education choices. The website features user-friendly occupation and industry information, salary data, career videos, education resources, self-assessment tools, career exploration assistance, and other resources.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov). Is the principal fact-finding agency for the Federal Government as it relates to economics and statistics. Type in any career or job title on this site and you can learn everything about that job including the nature of the work, educational requirements, training, advancement and other qualifications, employment, job outlook, projections, earnings and other related careers. This is a great tool to use to learn if the type of career you are interested in really offers a strong future.
- Projections Central (http://www.projectionscentral.com/default.aspx) This site gives projections of occupational employment growth for all States and the nation as a whole. Individuals can use these projections to help them make informed career decisions. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among States. It also allows projected employment growth among occupations to be compared within one State.
- Career Voyages (http://www.careervoyages.gov/about-main.cfm) This web site is a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Education. It is designed to provide information on in-demand occupations along with the skills and education needed to attain those jobs.
No matter what route you take when selecting potential employers, consider your personality, skills, likes and dislikes. Talk to people who work at the company you are interested in and get an idea of what the work day is like. Research company websites and explore all the other opportunities. Be honest with yourself about what is important to you. If making a lot of money is important, then look for a job with growth potential.
Educate yourself. I can't stress this enough. If you have chosen a career that does not make you happy, then change it! I am here specifically to share the myriad benefits of going back to school. If college is too daunting a prospect, then enroll in a weekend seminar or take a local adult ed class. There is no downside to increasing your knowledge and expertise.
Consider this saying, "A bend in the road is not the end of the road—unless you fail to make the turn." Let me assure you that making a few turns in your career path is not only likely, but perfectly acceptable.