Meet Ibrahim Al-Hassany! A recent graduate with a Masters degree in IT Project Management and IT in Public Administration from Örebro University in Sweden, he is now actively searching for jobs and hoping that his efforts to secure employment within his desired field would soon yield positive results. He has already taken the first and most important step of putting himself out there by hitting the networking circuit - attending career fairs and reaching out to potential employers. Here is what he shares with us over a Skype chat.
Have you attended career fairs before? What was your experience of them so far?
This is the first career fair I have attended since I obtained my Master degree in June 2016. Of course, the concept of job fairs is not foreign to me as I went to many of those in my university. Unfortunately, most of these events follow the standard procedure of company reps referring you to their website and handing out some freebies. I’ve applied for countless positions on those sites and never heard a word. When you sense that all companies are interested in is promoting themselves rather than trying to fit an applicant to a certain position and do actual hiring, you don’t feel like this is a serious event.
How did you find Graduateland’s virtual career fair different?
Being able to visit company booths from the comfort of my home, and chat with recruiters about available job opportunities was something I have never experienced before as this was the first online career event that I attended. I found out that the latter, despite lacking the human element of face-to-face meetings, provides a high level of interactivity and an opportunity to cut straight to the chase as opposed to wasting time on niceties and small talk. The fair was easily accessible and though I had problems logging in, the staff were very helpful and resolved my technical difficulties within minutes after I contacted them. The private chat function was something that I enjoyed tremendously and used extensively to elicit more information from recruiters about vacant positions. It enabled me to interact with a large number of companies simultaneously and, in the process, discover employers I have never heard of. In that respect, I found the virtual career fair eyes-opening.
What kind of jobs are you looking for?
I hold a bachelor degree in Computer Science which, coupled with my masters in IT Project Management and IT in Public Administration, makes me a good fit in any company that operates within the fields of project management, requirements management, enterprise architecture, etc. Naturally, I am interested in jobs that would enable me to capitalize on my knowledge in this particular industry and that would lend a more practical edge to my education. What I currently have my sights set on are graduate programmes as I believe they could give me a great head start in my career.
Do you have a company in mind you would like to work for?
I am open to all sorts of companies as well as governmental institutions. IT departments are nowadays a crucial component of government agencies, enterprises and public organisations alike, so I am not limiting myself to either the public or private sector. There is always more to discover, fresh perspectives to explore and new information to be gleaned. However, I think that working in a company would serve me best in the sense that it will enable me to interact with international offices. The idea of working for a firm that would give me the opportunity to relocate abroad is very attractive. In fact, through Graduateland’s virtual career fair, I applied for jobs in a number of companies in Denmark, Sweden, Spain, France. Some of those jobs were forwarded to me by the hiring managers that I spoke to at the fair.
Did you receive some useful tips from the recruiters that you engaged in a text chat with?
Not exactly. They were simply informing us of the positions that they have available. They did send us some links and elaborated on the possibilities for career advancement we have with them. I recall that one of the recruiters provided me with a link to a job that was not yet advertised on their website. I found that very positive as it was an indication to me that I am being considered seriously. It felt like an initial screening of potential candidates.
I was appreciative of most of the conversations I had with hiring managers as they would give me feedback and demonstrate a personal interest in me. I remember discussing a project I worked on while in university with one of the recruiters and she asked me to send her a copy because she really wanted to acquaint herself with it - to me that was an expression of genuine interest in my work, which I found very encouraging. That was pretty much the highlight of my virtual career fair experience.
Did you have any strategy in place as to how you’d approach recruiters or was it a spur-of-the-moment decision?
I dived right into the conversations without wasting precious time on pleasantries. Considering the large number of career-hungry participants and the limited amount of time hiring managers could spend on an individual chat, I thought I’d skip the non-essentials such as “How are you doing today?” and, instead, open the conversation with a brief introduction of myself followed by an inquiry into the possibilities I had with a given company. No beating around the bush!
I did a bit of research, of course, to determine if the jobs a company has on offer would match my educational background. Seeking to establish contact with employers interested in finance graduates, for instance, would have been an exercise in futility given the nature of my degree. So I decided to funnel my energy down more productive pathways and invest time and effort only into prospects that appeared promising.
In retrospect, what would you have done differently?
There is always something to contend with that makes you want to bite your lip. Overall, I think I managed to project a positive image of myself to recruiters. Maybe I should have asked more questions. It would have been fascinating to have longer conversations, like the one I am having with you right now - more personal. I realise, however, that this would have been impossible considering the high number of people vying for recruiters’ attention. In that respect, it would have been difficult to chat longer and ask more questions. It was clever to get straight to the point and seek to obtain answers to my most pressing concerns. As much as it was interesting and easily accessible, it was also quite limiting in the sense that you could only chat.
What would have made your experience of the virtual career fair better?
I’d say filtration - being able to select only companies that operate in fields I find relevant. The language requirements of some firms were also a bit confusing. They would instantly rule you out as a prospective candidate if you didn’t speak Danish, as the latter was an essential part of their eligibility criteria, which I understand. However, when I told them that I am fluent in Swedish, they would say “This is close enough! You should apply!”
Also, it would have been useful if there was a way for participants to bring forth their strengths and really build a good case for why they are a good fit for a given position, even if they didn’t look legit on paper.
Lastly, did you manage to make some personal connections?
I actually did. I connected with a few people on LinkedIn. Perhaps I should have been more assertive and connect with more recruiters. As for fellow job seekers, I wasn’t really interested in talking to them.
Need some advice on how to bring your A-game during a virtual career fair? We distilled recruiters' insights into several steps that should guide you in your preparation for the event.