Ten questions to help pitch information during a careers market

Organisations invest considerable resources in attending careers markets for students, graduates and the public. Sadly, much of this effort is wasted because information is not pitched to the target audience.

To help with your preparations, here are 10 questions to consider.

1. What is my audience mainly interested in?

The answer may seem obvious, careers, but what organisations can do is focus on what they do. This is a trap for professional organisations. They think membership and benefits are important. Not for students or even graduates. They are not interested in belonging to a professional organisation when they haven’t even decided what profession to pursue.

So, rather than having lots of brochures on membership benefits, your information needs to be focused on careers in the profession, what training is needed, who offers that training, what opportunities there are.

2. Where is the audience in their career decision-making?

If your target market is students, there is a difference in the decisions year 10 students are making compared with year 12. Similarly the decisions of graduates differs from students and adults. These differences will affect the information you provide and how you relate to your audience. If you are not familiar with the theory and practice of career development, then you may well benefit from building this knowledge.

3. Are you catering for a range of learning styles?

If you only take brochures you will limit your appeal. Not everyone wants to read brochures. Some will want to talk. Some will want to browse a website. Some will want a multimedia approach.

4. How will you draw attention?

A careers market is like any other market – lots of stalls with little to distinguish them. What will attract people to come to you? Toys and gimmicks work for some, but will not apply to every career. Think creatively about how you can capture attention with something that is relevant and intriguing.

5. How passionate are you?

You are there to encourage people to consider a career path. If you are not passionate about that path, if you cannot talk about what difference you make and why that is worthwhile, you won’t have much appeal.

6. Can you conduct a career conversation?

When people approach you are you able to conduct a conversation about careers that is engaging, non-threatening and informative? If not, then some skill development is needed.

7. Are you referring people to other exhibitors?

Do you know who else is at the market who is relevant to you? For example, if you represent a profession, have you identified the educational institutions present that offer relevant courses? Have you introduced yourself, so they can refer people to you?

8. Do you know about related careers?

While you might be representing a particular career, people may ask about related careers. They don’t know that your organisation doesn’t represent this other career. Nor do they know, nor care, that you hold views about that career that reflect professional jealousies, dislikes or disagreements. You need to set these aside and be able to talk about the links to related careers. For example, you might be representing the real estate industry. Someone might ask about banking or mortgage broking. You need to be informed about these careers as well.

9. Do you know how well briefed your audience is?

People come to careers markets with mixed ideas and information. Some students may have been given an extensive briefing by a career practitioner. Many may have been told the market was on and directed to attend. Do not assume that students have given much thought to planning their visit. You may have to help them out with gaining value from the market.

10. Are you making unhelpful assumptions about your audience?

You could fall into the trap of assuming that a person with a certain background will have certain interests. Such assumptions could relate to suburb, type of school, clothing, cultural background, and generally relates to stereotyping. Keep an open mind throughout.

Dr Ann Villiers, career coach, writer and author, is Australia’s only Mental Nutritionist specialising in mind and language practices that help people build flexible thinking, confident speaking and quality connections with people.