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Tips when looking for work at a job fair

Whether you're searching for better pay and hours or a new career after being terminated from a job, more and more experienced workers are looking for a career change.

Unfortunately, few actually follow through and succeed.

According to the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, job seekers 55 and older have the lowest re-employment rate.

Instead of emailing a resume, career counselors recommend you head to a local job fair in your area.

Most every community college hosts job fairs where local and, sometimes, global companies meet and screen a large volume of candidates in a single day.

Recently, America Now met up with Dr. Connie Johnston at a job fair attended by thousands of people at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, NC.

Johnston says she can easily pick out which job seekers come to find their 'second calling.'

In the crowd, we found Shirley Pratt, a hotel front desk attendant who has recently trained to become a developmental disability aid.

"She actually looks like a career changer," Johnston said referring to Pratt. 

Like many career changers, Pratt's resume is in need of a fix. It focuses more on her work history than her recent training history.

"There are some things I would do to make it better," Johnston says.

The first thing Johnston says she would change about Pratt's resume is the format.

She says a functional resume is better for a career changer. A functional resume organizes your experience into skill groups instead of listing past jobs chronologically. This format also showcases a person's old talents in a new way.

In her role as a talent acquisitions manager, Nancy Lopez Olivera hires hundreds of people for Coca-Cola Bottling Consolidated in Charlotte, NC.

"They have to understand that we read hundreds and hundreds of resumes for just one job so when they switch, they have to lighten up on the things they have done and make it more to what they're applying for," Olivera recommends.

This means you should place any new training you have closer to the top of your resume and leave off any work experience and education that happened more than 10 years ago.

If you really want to impress a future employer, apply to a job posting online with your resume and follow-up in person with a hard copy to hand to the company representative at a job fair.

"When you approach them, prepare a 60-second commercial about you," Johnston says. "Talk about your education, experience and skills that relate to that particular job."

For career changers who have been out of work, be sure to highlight any volunteer work which hiring managers say is just like having a job.

If your full-time job has been raising a family, don't write homemaker on your resume.

Instead, write the skills you have learned through your children's clubs and organizations.

Olivera says a successful career change from working full-time at home with children to working in an office environment requires lots of confidence.

"Being a mother, being a homemaker, I mean, what other more important job could you possibly have?" Olivera asks.

Now, that you are ready for a new job, figure out how your new industry networks.

Using social networking and career sites like LinkedIn is the best way to find out who's hiring if you've been out of the workplace for a while.

"Whatever you feel like you can do in your life, whether you're young, whether you're old, go for it," Pratt encourages.

Experts say go with a functional resume in hand. Be sure to highlight your new skills by applying them to the new industry in which you wish to work. By doing so, you may just go home with a new career.


Additional Information

The following information was obtained from an article published by USA Today:  

  • According to a research paper released last year by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, older workers (55 and over) have the lowest re-employment rate of any demographic group.   
  • These workers tend to remain out of work longer, are less likely to be re-employed and tend to have sharper declines in wages than younger workers when they find new jobs.
  • Seven out of 10 out-of-work older workers reported considering a career change, but only 12 percent enrolled in training for that purpose.

 The following information was from an article published by the AARP:

  • The fastest-growing jobs projected by 2018 are home health aids, personal and home care aid, computer software engineer, medical assistant, network systems/data communications analyst, dental assistant, compliance officer, dental hygienist, veterinary technologist, physical therapist assistant, physical therapist aide, skin care specialist, biomedical engineer, and financial examiner.

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