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Ask the Experts

Beyond Job Fairs

job fair

— David McNew/Getty Images

Q. I’ve gone to local job fairs to look for work but they’ve been mob scenes. Are there better ways to find a job?

A. Job fairs can introduce you to area companies you may not have considered previously. But it can be hard to come away with a real interview, let alone a job offer. Most of the booths are staffed not by hiring managers but by lower-level human resources people who mainly collect résumés. Often they take them back to the company to digitally scan them for keywords that will help screen applicants.

So, job fairs can help, but the most effective approach is old-fashioned networking. Start with people you know professionally and socially. Ask each of them to introduce you to at least two other people who might be able to help with your search. Many openings are not posted online or in the newspaper, so success can often mean being in the right place at the right time. The bigger your network, the better your chances.

Carole Fleck is a senior editor at the AARP Bulletin.

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