Last week the National Association of Black Accountants (“NABA”) held their 2012 Convention and Career Expo in Phoenix, Arizona.
The career expo was promoted as including representatives from 70 Fortune 500 companies. A few of the companies that I was able to stop and chat with included Coca Cola, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, GE, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, BNY Mellon, TD Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Microsoft, Raytheon, Google, Walmart, Dow Chemical and Boeing.
The things I found really great about these booths were (a) the majority of them had representatives from the human resource department as well as senior business professionals on hand to answer practical questions about day-to-day job functions; (b) there were more than ample staff at each booth to answer questions and accept resumes which prevented exhausting line-ups from developing, and (c) everyone had fabulous goodies to give away. By far my most favorite acquisition of the day was Morgan Stanley’s multiple USB adaptor gadget that resembles a little person.
On the other hand, the thing that I found a little frustrating and, in all honesty, discouraging was the limited number of advertised opportunities for tax professionals and even fewer tax representatives on hand.
In all fairness to NABA, the career fair was set up to appeal to professionals in the accounting profession as well as non-accounting professionals. However, the large majority of representatives on the accounting side were focused on recruiting for audit roles.
It appears that this accurately reflected the population of attendees at the conference. NABA did their research and got their marketing strategy right in other words. But, knowing this does not make it any easier for job hunting tax professional not to become overwhelmed in an environment where they are the obvious minority.
So what can a tax professional do at a career fair, where there are only a few advertised tax positions, to ensure that they don’t become overwhelmed? A few things:
(1) Make Contacts: It is important to know what businesses are going to be at the career fair. Find out what type of tax roles are currently posted and ask the company representative if they know the person who runs that department or the HR representative responsible for hiring. This information is not always easy to find on the internet so try to use that initial contact to expand your network.
(2) Establish Targets: Some companies will have advertised positions for tax professionals. You should know in advance who these companies are. You should also know what the company or human resource professional is looking for in a candidate that will be a fit for the posted position. Some of the companies are looking for a minimum GPA average, whereas others may be looking for certain background knowledge and experience. Know what you bring to the table and focus on those companies that fit your particular circumstances best.
(3) Eliminate Distractions: Don’t spend too much time at the booths that are not a good fit for what you are looking for. If you did your research you will know what companies are actively hiring tax professionals. Some companies prefer to outsource their tax function. If this is the case, your time will be best served if you maneuver past this stand and head to an employer that is better positioned to place you in a role that fits your profile.
(4) Network: The NABA Convention was a five day event. Some career fairs, however, are only for the day. Regardless of how much time you have, you should still take the time to network. This includes meeting people who are not necessarily stationed at the booth and may even be applying for the same positions that you are. Most of the tax professionals I met were at lunches, CPE programs, at the gym or other social events during the Convention. They were very valuable resources in helping to navigate the career fair. I expect that many of them will also become friends, colleagues or business partners.
(5) Show Up: You’ve already been defeated if you don’t put your hat in the ring. Regardless of how many, or the lack of, available opportunities make the best of it. After all, your goal is to get that one perfect job.
June 19, 2012 ©