imageContributing blogger John Long is a professional career coach and consultant in Atlanta who founded Two Roads Resources. He blogs at Atlanta Career Coach.

Q: The last time I attended a job fair was during my undergrad years and it wasn’t a pleasant experience. With the job market in upheaval right now, should I reconsider and add career events to my job search?

A: This is a great question. It’s not only useful for this post but also as an opportunity to poke the readers on my coaching blog and to get them thinking. These events go by many different names: Job Fair, Career Fair, Career Expo, Career Forum or Career Event. Don’t dismiss them as cattle calls as they can be worth your investment of time and effort. There are some excellent events out there, events that not only focus on providing exposure to quality employers, but also on providing on the spot career coaching.

The key to participating in career fairs is to identify events that will provide you with access to qualified leads with motivated employers who are seeking new talent. But you need to do your homework to identify specialty events that target professionals in specific industries or markets, such as bio tech, MBA, healthcare, technology, law and green collar.

Don’t let the term “fair” confuse you. You won’t be eating cotton candy and riding the tilt-a-whirl, although some days of a job search may feel like you’re spinning in circles or taking a ride in the bumper cars.

Remember to dress for success, bring copies of a polished resume and references and be prepared to enthusiastically market your skills, strengths and achievements. No matter how long the day or the lines, keep flashing those pearly whites and project a professional, winning image.

An added bonus: Events that are organized by top career related organizations offer you real time access to career pros offering resume critiques and interviewing tips.

If you’re wondering whether career fairs target the LGBT community, why yes, there are some fantastic events out there. Contact professional associations and roam the web a bit to seek out LGBT focused career fairs and networking events.

But don’t forget professional networking events. Remember one of my key rules for the job search process: Do your research and Google their ass! Check out some upcoming expos, then sign up and show up.

Southern Regional LGBT Career Fair
Lavender Law 2009, the National LGBT Bar Association’s Annual Career Fair
Out & Equal - 2009 Workplace Summit
The Women For Hire Career Expo scheduled for Atlanta on March 31. It’s not just for women—men and members of the LGBT community are encouraged to attend.

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