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I am looking for an Executive Position as I transition out of civil service, why would I want to attend a career event?

(As I teach classes at many of the local government agencies on career search and social media, from time to time I get questions from professionals who are in their career transition. I just got this question this morning from someone in one of my classes about their attendance to our upcoming Cleared Job Fair. I felt that the question and my response would apply to many in this community.)

I completely understand where a security cleared professional looking for an executive position would not consider attending a Cleared Job Fair especially if they are retiring from a very successful civil service career. We would still recommend you coming to a career event for many reasons.

A career transition will be about your networking and this is a very hard skill to learn and perfect. At an event like a Cleared Job Fair, you need to strategize who you will talk to and how to improvise along the way. We all know life serves up to us challenges and opportunities for us to overcome and welcome, and it is how we approach these situations that make us who we are. If you approach a career event as something to dread, beneath you or a chore, that is what it will become. But if you approach a career event as an opportunity to get out of your comfort zone, gather ground intelligence and to network, you will find a whole new world open to you.

While you may think that the recruiters and hiring managers at a career event are not recruiting for the type of executive position you are looking for, many have been in the industry 10-15 years and will have executive positions as part of their billet. They just may not advertise these for fear that people not qualified for the position will apply. The recruiters at the career event will be able to give you the picture of how executives are recruited for their company and who would be the best person for you to talk with. Finally, you will eventually be talking to many recruiters in your interview process and talking to all the recruiters at the career event will give you a concentrated practice session on how to approach, network and close each recruiter. Recruiters are people too, with good days, bad days and particular quirks- the more you practice “talking” with them you enhance your opportunities to succeed in the interview and hiring process.

There will also be companies at the Cleared Job Fair that are not even on your radar, and you might find that they are the type of company you would like to work for. Many executives gravitate toward large companies because it is a lateral transition for them; it is within in their comfort zone and familiar territory in the organizational structure. Smaller to medium size companies will definitely utilize all of your skills and actually give you the opportunity to stretch into other areas where you might learn something new and add to your already phenomenal skill set. Or they could provide you with an opportunity to work on a project, and you learn that this is something you completely do not want to do. You are at the prime of your career and a wonderful time to be able to create and recreate yourself if given the right opportunities and challenges. The smaller companies are also an opportunity to work toward building the company or having the company be acquired by another company, which happens more frequently in the defense contract community.

There are also the other job seekers at the career event that you can network with as well. This is great ground intelligence on what is actually happening in the job search world in our community. Understanding the tactics other candidates have taken, what has worked for them and how various companies treated them are all great pieces of information to add to your career search tool kit. It is also another opportunity to network and practice your interviewing skills, as when you interview with a company you will more than likely be interviewing with several people from those you may supervise all the way up to the executive level. Finally you will also want to bring in good talent into your new position, and if you have already interviewed and identified great talent in the community by the networking discussions you conducted at the career event, you are already on your way to being successful at your new position.

As to executive management positions, you have to realize that these are the most coveted positions but at the same time scarce especially in lean economic times. You may have to work your way up in an organization and prove yourself –again.

As with anything this will be about how you prepare, strategize and approach the event that will make it a success or failure.

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