The Central Job Developers Association is hosting is 24th annual job fair on Thursday, March 19, at the Rutgers Labor Education Center in New Brunswick beginning at 9 a.m. Free to attend, businesses and potential employers can reserve a table for $175. Call 732-745-5300, ext. 4202, for information.

Donna Silverman, chair of the CJJDA, graduated from Rutgers with a master’s in adult education, and has been involved with the CJJDA since it came into existence in the late 1980s. It began as a loose coalition of several organizations with similar goals. “We started out basically to try to avoid duplication of services offer support and networking for people working to ease unemployment,” she explains.

Over the years CJJDA has evolved into a professional organization of job developers, career counselors, and vocational counselors who serve job seekers and people with barriers to employment, she said. It currently has more than 230 nonprofit, public, and private agencies as members and serves a pool of more than 3,000 job seekers in seven counties.

A few “typical” member organizations include vocational and technical schools, the Department of Labor One Stop Career Center, and social services organizations, such as Jewish Family and Vocational Services and New Brunswick Tomorrow, Silverman says.

All job seekers welcome. While the job fair is held on the Rutgers campus, it is different from many similar fairs in that it is aimed at a wide variety of job seekers, not just college students. “We see people attending from all walks of life,” Silverman says. That’s a big advantage for employers seeking new workers. “They know that we will have a variety of people so they come here with a wide variety of jobs they are trying to fill; everything from entry level positions to professional to managerial.

Silverman says the fair enables employers to network and promote their companies in a large public forum as well. “The large number of employers who return year after year is a testimony to the effectiveness.”

However, the economic situation has had an impact on the job fair this year. Table reservations by employers are down, but there will still be about 40 looking to fill vacancies. Silverman also expects attendance by job seekers, always about 1,000, to be even higher this year. The advantage is for the employers, she says. They will be able to see a large number of highly qualified candidates.

One new employer at the fair is the U.S. Census Bureau, which will be testing for jobs for the next U.S. census in 2010.

New workshops. The fact that fewer tables have been reserved has meant that the CJJDA has been able to add some new features for job seekers. Several workshops will be given throughout the day, including a workshop on starting your own business by staff from Middlesex Community College, and a workshop on resume writing and interview skills. In addition, a credit counselor from NovaDebt will also have a booth at the fair.

Be prepared. For job seekers planning to attend the event, Silverman has some advice. “Come prepared to interview and fill out applications. Our employers are at the job fair ready to fill jobs.”

It is important to bring several copies of your resume because there are no copying facilities at the site. “If you don’t have a resume or if you run out of copies, you can still fill out applications, but having a resume is still the best,” she says. After all, the job fair is just like any other job interview, the goal is to make the best impression.

Put your resumes in a clean, neat folder so that they will stay fresh throughout the day, and remember to bring a pen and paper to take notes.

Practice interviewing. Rising unemployment means that many people seeking jobs haven’t been in the market in a long time. They need to practice their interview skills before attending the job fair, or any interview, says Silverman. Ask a friend or family member to help you think of a few “typical” questions an interviewer might ask, then practice your answers until you are comfortable. Think of ways to describe your job skills.

Get ready. Make sure your interview attire is neat, tidy and appropriate for the type of job you are looking for. First impressions are important, make sure you arrive at the job fair as neat and clean as you would arrive for the first day of your new job.

Remember to relax. Try to stay as calm and relaxed as possible during your interview. Listen carefully to the questions that are asked and take a moment or two to think before answering. It’s always good to try to relate your answers to the company and explain how your skills can be of benefit to your potential employer.

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