Ready for a Job Fair? First, do Your Homework!

Many students will do more than take classes this semester – they’ll be looking for full and part-time jobs, too. The job search can be daunting on top of homework and other responsibilities, and the GateWay Career Center is here to help.

Each year, GateWay hosts the DREAM Job Fair in partnership with many local agencies, providing an opportunity for students and community members to connect with employers. However, the truly successful job seekers are usually those who take the time to prepare.

“Job fairs provide an awesome opportunity to get some face time with employers,” says Kerry Sanderson, director of the Career Center. “But job seekers have to be ready. In order to stand out, they need a great resume, knowledge about the companies they are targeting, and the ability to articulate their strengths.”

In short, students must do their homework.

The Career Center and community partners host a prep session to help job seekers maximize their success on job fair day – essentially a “practice run” for the main event. Participants can get on-site resume critiques, mock interviews with real employers, and workshops from hiring managers on what it takes to be a successful applicant.

“Soft skills make the difference between getting a job offer or staying unemployed,” says Tim Stump, employer coordinator for Arizona Rehabilitation Services Administration and longtime job fair partner. “By coming to the pre-event, job seekers hear directly from employers about what they are looking for from them.”

The extra exposure to job hunting tactics had an impact on job seekers and employers alike last year. Feedback revealed that employers were more likely to interview job seekers who attended the pre-event, and several employers extended job offers on the spot.

Additionally, those who attend the pre-event are given a voucher that allows them to enter the job fair a half-hour before the general public, giving them another leg up on the competition.

“There’s really no reason not to attend the prep event,” says Sanderson. “It’s a huge benefit to have all of the hosting agencies and many employers easily accessible to you before the job fair even happens.”

Stump also stresses the benefits of several agencies partnering to host the event. He believes that combining resources can allow greater access to support programming like the pre-event.

“The agencies that come together provide a diverse background that ensures that all job seekers will benefit from their attendance,” he says. “Preparing for the job fair will help to get the most from your experience.”

The DREAM Job Fair and prep event are open to all job seekers – both students and the general public – and require that all companies be open to hiring workers with disabilities. The DREAM Job Fair is held at GateWay each October to mark National Disability Employment Awareness month. Community partners include WEDCO, Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care, Beacon Group, Marc Community Resources, NETPA, and RSA.

The preparation event will be held from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 24, in the Career Center and the Copper Room. The DREAM Job Fair will be held 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 8 in the Copper Room. The job fair features 40 companies with immediate hiring needs in industries including education, healthcare, retail, information technology, and customer service.

For a list of registered employers or other details, contact the Career Center at 602.286.8500.

Story submitted by Jessica Brosilo, Coordinator of Career Services and Service Learning at GateWay. For more information, please reach her at

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