Networking is stressful. Looking for work is stressful. These things are stressful on an existential level and there is no use pretending they are not.
The 2016 TechJobsLA Job Fair, at the DTLA location of BLANKSPACES, was an overwhelming experience for all concerned. To its credit, it did not try to be otherwise. All rooms were jam-packed throughout. The noise level hovered at a low din. The coffee flowed like wild rapids. What made it such a successful event was that it packed so many radiant brains into a small place and packed so much cerebral stimulation into four hours that the net effect was pleasantly overwhelming. It was stressful in a fun way.
For job seekers and recruiters alike, job fairs are a bit like speed-dating. It’s a less lonesome and futile way to spend a few hours than endlessly attaching PDFs to emails and hitting walls of Applicant Tracking Software. But, in person, there is significant pressure to make a strong and immediate impression.
There were hot startups and top agencies, and there was more. The organizers also invited the UCLA Extension, Girl Develop It, True Talk Advisors, and other organizations offering not just acceptance or rejection, but opportunities for continuing self-improvement. Anyone who didn’t get hired on the spot at least walked away with an expanded peer network and some inspiration and opportunities to grow and hone their skills on their own time and/or for a good cause.
For anyone who got burned out on introductions and wanted to listen to someone else for a bit, the quality of the presentations was sterling.
For the UXers in attendance, Ed Moore’s “Frontiers of VR UX” was arguably the biggest draw. Moore examined some of the unique challenges and opportunities of virtual reality from a user experience perspective, honed in on some market imbalances that ambitious designers and developers can potentially exploit, geeked out with some cool tools, and provided a tight and inviting introduction to one of the most exciting new trends in tech. The only thing wrong with Moore’s presentation was that it overlapped Evelyn Masso’s “Designing for Physical Interactivity,” an equally challenging and relevant topic in UX. Perhaps the two of them can collaborate on some new way to be in two places at once.
The star-studded Digital Entertainment Panel touched on VR as well; Jinsoo An managed to clear up some confusion around his work in “virtual eating” without diminishing its intrigue. Overall, it took a broader view of trends in technology and made the case for why storytelling is still key and Southern California is still the place to be.
In order to become more adept storytellers, some job seekers may benefit from gaining some clarity on the stories they tell about themselves. That’s Jamie Douraghy’s department. When he’s not running the recruiting firm Artisan Creative, Douraghy imparts unusual career advice that is more about self-discovery than it is about bringing down the big bucks. Douraghy and the Digital Entertainment Panel’s Dan Greaney (a veteran Simpsons writer with a gleefully dark sense of humor) addressed the career concerns of introverts and rebels, reaching out to those who tend to struggle the most not only with networking, but with career satisfaction. After a quick interview, Douraghy provided one attendee with a read on her personality, struggles, and goals that left her with goosebumps.
Aside from opportunities to meet people, the best job fairs give harried job seekers opportunities to share some moments of real connection. The TechJobsLA fair excelled not just in its roster and its content, but also in its humanity. Based on the likely word of mouth about this year’s event, 2017’s edition may need a bigger crucible.