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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

THE NATIONAL JOB FAIR

One-stop employment shopping

By Sharon Aschaiek
Special to The Toronto Sun


In the digital age, the Internet has had a profound impact on the way we look for work. The arrival of virtual job boards and job postings on individual company websites make it all too tempting to sit at home reformatting your resume all day and keep hitting "send".

But in a climate where employers are looking for more bang for their buck, and more people are competing for the same jobs, those who network in their field and strive to meet employers in person will get ahead.

"Today, the job market is less personalized than in the past because of the Internet," says Daniel Levesque, co-president of The National Job Fair and Training Expo (www.thenationaljobfair.com). "But while it may be faster to send a resume through the Internet, networking is crucial. We're offering people the opportunity to do just that."

Taking place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (Exhibition Hall C) today and tomorrow, the fair has become a primary venue for job hunters and transition seekers wanting to maximize their search strategies. What they'll find this year, for an admission price of just $3.50, are about 3,000 job and training opportunities, more than 100 exhibitors and hundreds of job postings.

Running from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. both days, the fair will be divided into three easy-to-navigate pavilions -- employment, employment services and training and education -- to allow job hunters to make the most of their time.

"The job search process is not an easy thing -- it's a long process of making phone calls, sending resumes and going to appointments. Here, people can do it all under the same roof," says Levesque, who's expecting more than 15,000 visitors.

Visitors will have access to employers such as Indigo, Clarica, Jetsgo, RadioShack, Ontario Provincial Police, Wal-Mart and Carlson Marketing Group Canada Ltd., along with a host of education and training institutions and government services. In all, exhibitors will represent almost every sector, including accounting, insurance, management, food, education, telecommunications, manufacturing, retail, transport and more.

In addition to dispensing information and accepting resumes, some exhibitors will be conducting interviews and even hiring on the spot.

"The survey we conducted of exhibitors from our last fair showed that 2,500 jobs were offered on site, and they expected to hire 2,000 more from the fair after the show," Levesque says.

As such, Levesque says, a visitor should approach the fair with almost the same attitude as they would a job interview. Before arriving, he says, research the companies for which you want to work (the exhibitor list is posted on the site), and prepare a mini one-minute presentation of yourself, your skills and your qualifications in the instance you land an interview. Also, have a good sense of the kind of work you're looking for, whether you're interested in full-time, part-time or contract work, your location of preference and whether you're willing to relocate.

He adds to come prepared with several resumes, reference letters and business cards, if you have them.

And of course, Levesque says, dress to impress.

"Today, image is so important, and it plays an even greater role at the fair than at a normal interview. There are a lot of people seeking the same thing, and recruiters have to make decisions quickly," he says. "Dress well but maintain individuality at the same time."

But the work doesn't end there, Levesque says. Following up is just as important, if not more, to maximizing your prospects.

"Follow up is critical," he says. "People are busy, and if you don't follow up, they won't call you."

Presented in collaboration with the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and The Toronto Sun, the twice-yearly event has grown into a key player in the provincial job fair scene, and Levesque and partner Maud Allard are working to grow it even further, hoping to eventually attract 300 exhibitors.

"We love to work with people, and a job fair links people together: employers, employees, career seekers and people who want to change jobs," Levesque says. "Nothing can replace face-to-face contact between an employer and employee."



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