Career Fair

by Brian K. Kelly

Managing Editor

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    Spokane youth learn about looking for work.

    James Lee, 18, and his younger brother Christopher sat near the front of the chapel furiously taking notes. They live in Spokane, Washington, and though they knew they were living in an area of high employment, both of them needed summer jobs.

    Luckily for the Lees and hundreds of other young Latter-day Saints like them, the local stake leaders with the help of Brother Ronald Buchanan, manager of the Church’s Spokane Employment Center, had organized a one-day career fair for all of the young people in the Spokane area.

    The career fair started with talks from some of the local leaders about general gospel principles and how they relate to the work ethic. As the day progressed the information became much more specific, and the participants learned about developing careers, preparing resumes, creative job searching, and interviewing.

    “A good resume is probably the most effective job hunting tool for a young person,” said Bill Steen, a professional teacher and consultant on preparing resumes. “Of course a resume is needed for professional, career-oriented job seekers, but very few young people use them. So when you do, it really sets you apart from the rest of the job-hunting crowd.

    “Do not depend on an application and then wait at home by the phone for someone to call,” he continued, “because it rarely happens. Few people understand what most job application forms are really designed to accomplish. They are designed by an employer to reveal as many weaknesses as possible and eliminate you from the competition for that job. And this is the tool that most of us use to try to get a job—a tool that is designed to screen us out.”

    The young people learned some fascinating ways to find job openings and even to create them if they are not there to begin with. John Munson, 14, is working on the details for his own summer business. He is gong to specialize in selling fresh hot sausages (either on a bun or a stick) to the vacationers at Lake Coeur d’ Alene. John is going to hire two kids to operate other stands which he also owns. He is working on the forms for his health department clearance and business license and has bids from suppliers for his sausages.

    A Washington State employment placement specialist, Sister Carole Hankal gave a delightful workshop on the creative job search. “Once you have prepared a good resume, you might feel it’s the best resume in the world. You should remember that for every person hired there are 1,470 resumes sent out. So the resume isn’t going to get the job for you. It is important, but it works better if it is combined with a personal contact. It is just like missionary work: when a person is referred to the missionaries by a close friend or relative, the chances of his being baptized are much greater than if he was tracted out by the missionaries. If you have a family friend or relative that has a business and hires people, don’t abuse the situation. Don’t go up to Uncle Harry and say, ‘Hey, do you know of any job openings?’ This is not what you want to do. However, if your Uncle Dan works in the bank personnel department and you would like a job in a bank you might say, ‘Hello, Uncle Dan, this is Karen. I just graduated from high school, got straight A’s in mathematics and A’s in English, and I type 60 words a minute with very few errors. I would really love to work in the banking institution. Do you know of any openings or anyone who might be aware of some openings and would you mind introducing me to some of your associates?’”

    After Sister Hankal gave the above example, she explained that a good percentage of jobs are filled by those who have some kind of personal contact with the employer. She added, “Don’t be discouraged if you feel you have done everything right and still don’t get a job. Be prepared for up to ten interviews. It often takes ten or more in order for you to be successful in getting that job that is just right for you.”

    It was now late afternoon, and the young people had sat about as long as they could absorbing the career information. When their appetites for food began to overshadow their appetites for summer work, dozens of Relief Society sisters and their husbands appeared out of nowhere and promptly began serving hundreds of delicious box lunches that had been prepared earlier for the entire group.

    The high point of the career fair for most of the young people was the next two-hour block when they were able to talk to individual career specialists. Seventy-eight specialists had set up booths in the cultural hall while the young people were eating. There were representatives from education, health services, community services, government and military, construction, communications, retailing, sales, business, engineering, and a host of other fields of employment. Each representative had handouts giving specific information about the educational requirements, the expected salary ranges, and pros and cons of the job.

    There were also 11 colleges and universities represented in classrooms near the cultural hall. Each representative was delighted to talk to the young people about entrance requirements, costs, and financial aids.

    The fair was carefully organized to accomplish several different objectives. “We wanted to (1) prepare our youth so they would be the best prepared to enter both the summer and permanent job markets and be the first to apply when an opportunity arises; (2) help them to identify career areas they would like to work in and to match their summer employment with their career goals; (3) create the opportunity for them to visit with more than 75 career specialists; and (4) give them the chance to talk to representatives from local colleges as well as BYU and Ricks,” said Brother Buchanan.

    “It took us six months to plan and develop the fair. One hundred and fifty people helped put all the details together. I know that Sister Carole Krohn, chairman of the career specialists, made 300 telephone calls herself. But we wanted the youth to be taught about self-reliance and self-sufficiency. What these young people have learned here today should improve their income potential, job satisfaction, self-esteem, and their ability to serve in the Church,” he added.

    James and Christopher left the career fair with new confidence in themselves and determination to use the knowledge they had gained to get their summer jobs.

    James got the job he wanted working at a grocery store in Deer Park, Washington. He first talked to the manager, and then he followed up by submitting an application. The manager noted that James would not work on Sunday and so he did not hire him. Yet James kept in touch with the store, and after a few days he was asked to work for two days on a trial basis. The owner of the store interviewed James and asked him why he would not work on Sunday. James told him it was part of the teachings of his church and he had made a personal commitment to try to keep the Sabbath holy. The owner was impressed, and James was hired—to work every day but Sunday.

    Christopher found his job using another technique he learned in the workshops at the fair. He applied for a job, but at the time there were no openings. When he followed up a few days later he said, “I know that it costs you something to train new employees. I will volunteer to come in and learn whatever you would like me to learn on my own time and then if you think I can do the job to your satisfaction I will be trained and ready to go to work when you have an opening.” This initiative impressed his employer enough that he interviewed him and hired him on the spot. Although the restaurant is open on Sunday, Christopher’s employer respects his beliefs and has not required that he come in and work on that day.

    Both of the Lee boys felt they got the jobs they wanted because of what they learned at the career fair, including proper dress for a job interview, cultivating qualities that an employer would look for like grammar and manners, what to expect in applying for a job, and the kinds of questions an employer would hope a job applicant would ask to show that he is really interested in working for him.

    James and Christopher Lee are only two out of hundreds of success stories from those who attended the career fair. More than half of the 850 young people who attended got jobs after the fair. Others who couldn’t get work or didn’t want to work for someone else have started their own businesses, and still others actually are involved in their long-range careers, thanks to the stake leaders and the Church Employment System, who sponsored the 1984 Spokane Career Fair.

    Black and white photos by Brian K. Kelly/color photos by Brian Spackman

    Jobs. Whether they were looking for part-time work at a fast-food restaurant or a major career opportunity, participants at the Spokane fair wanted to know how to stand out in a crowd.

    Tips. Seventy-eight specialists set up booths in the cultural hall and talked individually with young people about what to do and not to do when seeking employment. Colleges were represented, too.

    Pride. James and Christopher Lee both found a sense of accomplishment when they used skills taught at the career fair to obtain just the jobs they were after.