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Career Coach: Job Fair Tips

The Career Coach advises readers on how to tackle job fairs.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson.

A few years ago, I visited the job fair at SIGGRAPH. There was a tremendous queue that streamed around the room and ended at the ILM/Lucas Arts booth. I estimated the wait was probably two hours. There was no line at all at a nearby booth. I walked up and immediately started speaking to the woman standing behind the counter, who turned out to be a manager in human resources. She told me about the open positions and opportunities at her company. She was looking for modelers, project managers and designers. She told me about the substantial benefits packages and salary ranges for entry level applicants and handed me a slick folder full of statistics about the company, including their employee stock plans, health benefits, and worldwide locations. The company, so eager to hire with no apparently interested CG trained applicants, was GM General Motors, Americas largest car company.

With limited time at a job fair, you have a choice. You can start a relationship with a human resources person by having a few minutes conversation or you can choose to have a rushed five-second encounter with someone at the ILM booth wholl toss your résumé and reel on top of the mountain they have already collected, just like hundreds of other applicants.

Use job fairs to find out about opportunities you dont know about. There are more opportunities than just Pixar and ILM. Its unlikely that Pixar or ILM will hire applicants with no experience, but they always draw a crowd.

Find out what companies are going to be at the SIGGRAPH conference this year by visiting Research the participating companies before the event by clicking on their links.

If possible, apply for the job before the job fair. Contact companies in advance and ask them if they are pre-screening people before the conference. Ask what they are looking for and try to get a scheduled interview. Its best to do this two or three months before a big conference like SIGGRAPH.

Madeleine Slutsky, director of career services, The Illinois Institute of Art Chicago suggests, Be open to all the different companies that are participating in the job fair both high profile and lesser known. Those that have less name recognition might just have the perfect job opportunity. Suzanne Datz, head cheerleader Zoic Studios, concurs, I would also advise that applicants who really want to work in features not to overlook a company because, for example, they work primarily on TV projects. It is an ever-changing industry and by limiting yourself to one area of the industry, I believe the applicant does himself s a disservice.

Go to the website and get as much info about the companies attending the job fair as you can. Make a list of the companies whose work you like. Datz urges, Do research on the companies attending the job fair so you know which companies do which kind of work and what kind of artists they need.

Company websites often have news articles about the company, including press releases, which describe both past projects and future projects. Study the staff listings. Read the bios of the company leaders and note names of human resources personnel. If the company is public, check its stock performance and annual reports. Take note of their upcoming projects and current job openings. Make a list of those companies looking for someone with your skills and background and set those as a priority to see on the day of the job fair. Prepare a chart listing the company name, job openings, projects (both future and past) and leave space for notes youll glean from the job fair.

As you meet people, collect contact info and take notes about what you discussed. This will make it easier for you when doing follow up and writing thank you notes after the job fair is over. Few people follow up on job fair contacts so this extra effort will make you stand out from the crowd long after the crowds are gone.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson, recruiter/career coach, will be teaching a class called Career Realities starting on Saturday, July 8, for five weeks at Gnomon in the heart of Hollywood. Find out more at Gnomons website. Spend Saturday mornings from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm learning about career strategies, including networking, negotiation tips and how to survive as a freelancer. For more info call 323-466-6663. Space is filling up fast.

Pamela is also teaching a course at SIGGRAPH 06 in Boston on Monday, July 31, from 3:45-5:30 called, Résumé and Demo Reels, If Yours Arent Working Neither Are You. For more info see Hope to see you in Hollywood or Boston!