Turn Your Career Fair Into a Fun-Filled, Informative Scavenger Hunt!
by Andrea M. Pearman
How successful was your last career fair? Were your students 100% engaged on their own or only pretending to be interested because they were required to take part in the event? Were the participating businesses happy with their experiences?
Many educators that I’ve spoken with in the past have expressed that their traditional career fairs were not as successful as they should have been. Students just weren’t getting excited about the way that the material was presented and therefore weren’t retaining information from the event. Little did I know that I would soon experience exactly what these teachers and counselors had already encountered.
As a local business owner, I believe in giving back to the community. One of the ways that my company does this is by participating in career fairs at both the middle school and high school levels. Unfortunately, these experiences were becoming less and less rewarding. It seemed that students’ attention spans were really beginning to dwindle. In fact, the last “traditional” career fair that I attended went something like this:
I received a phone call from the school asking if my company would participate in their upcoming career fair. I said yes and was given the details of location, time, etc. When I arrived, I was pointed to the table where I would be meeting with students in groups of eight. On the table was a sign that read “Marketing”. I sat down and waited for the bell to ring. Approximately every ten minutes, the bell would ring and the eight students would get up and proceed to the next table. My instructions were to enlighten these groups of students about the field of marketing. To be honest, I felt as if a tape recorder could accomplish the same results.
About halfway through the career fair, a new group of eight students sat down. One young lady put her head down on the table and was completely disengaged from my “monologue”. I was frustrated and a bit angry with her behavior. In a calm voice, I asked her if she would like to pay attention and learn a little bit about the marketing field. Her response has stayed with me over the years. Without hesitating, she replied that she was not interested in marketing. Intrigued, I asked her what she was interested in, anticipating the age-old answer of “I don’t know”. Instead, she clearly communicated that she was interested in mechanics. I probed and asked her why she was at my table instead of learning more about what really interested her at the mechanics’ table. The answer was simple – she had to.
At that moment, I decided that I would not do a “traditional” career fair again.
I knew that there had to be a better way to conduct these career fairs – through a Scavenger Hunt! I recalled the hunts that took us door-to-door as children, looking for items like a black button, one battery, or a green crayon to complete our “shopping list”. No matter how many hunts we went on, we always looked forward to the next one because of how much fun we had. My business team and I quickly went to work on developing an exciting, easy-to-understand way to present the 16 U.S. Department of Education Career Clusters. Students love excitement, games and prizes. Why not put all of those elements together into a career fair that also involves the students in the planning and execution of the event?
And so the Dr. Max™ Scavenger Hunt was born. To generate interest and excitement in the Hunt, juniors and seniors work side-by-side with counselors, teachers and members of the community to execute the entire activity, from planning to “policing” student behavior on the day of the event, to cleaning up and sending thank-you notes. On the actual day of the Hunt, instead of requiring students to listen to presentations about career fields they are not interested in, they are encouraged to interact with business participants in a fun, energetic environment. Business participants are asked to make their occupational presentations as interesting as possible. For example, a local chef may want to perform a food demonstration for students, or a local police force may conduct a lie detector test to “test” the students. The possibilities for creativity are endless! Students respectfully ask these business participants three questions each that are pertinent to their occupation and are in turn rewarded prize tickets that they can redeem at a prize booth later in the session. Remember, they do not have to visit every career cluster or business person, but the goal is to make them so excited about what they are learning that they do ask more and more questions in hopes of earning bigger prizes. Prizes may include items such as pencils, tee-shirts, binders, stickers, etc.
It’s been nearly five years since I began conducting career fair Scavenger Hunts, and the feedback that I’ve received from the educators and students has been overwhelming. No school that I have ever worked with that has turned their career fair into a Hunt has ever gone back to running a “traditional” career fair. Students are more excited to attend the activity and retain more knowledge; area businesses are more inclined to participate due to word of mouth of the success, and parents and teachers are finding that students are making more informed career decisions and college choices. Since its creation, the Scavenger Hunt activity has been implemented within entire school districts across the United States, and the demand keeps growing. Are you ready to begin your Hunt?
Andrea M. Pearman is the creator of the acclaimed Dr. Max™ Program which includes Career Exploration Programs, Integrated Anger Management Curriculum, Integrated Ethics Curriculum and How to Turn Your Career Fair into a Scavenger Hunt. Andrea speaks and trains at conferences and seminars across the United States, primarily in the areas of professional and educational development in business, educational and detentional facilities, youth organizations and clubs. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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