South Florida Black Journalists Association Hosts Successful Job Fair
Friday, February 3, 2017
Posted by: Veronique Dodson
South Florida Black Journalists Association Hosts Successful Job Fair
A funny thing happened on the way to the first-ever South Florida Black Journalists Association’s (SFBJA) Media Career Fair on Jan. 25. After expecting only 50 attendees, the planners were ecstatic when the numbers skyrocketed to more than 300. The attendees weren’t only local; they came from as far as Atlanta, Dallas and Philadelphia.
The fair was chaired by Juan Diasgranados, also SFBJA’s former VP-Broadcast. He noted that South Florida, part of NABJ Region III, is a unique region in the United States. “We're one of the few places that has a population that's overwhelmingly majority-minority,” he said. “We saw an opportunity to host a career fair to cater to the audience here in South Florida.”
SFBJA promised the recruiters that it would have a diverse set of registrants attending the fair, said Diasgranados. “It's important to hire within the region instead of bringing talent from outside South Florida,” he said. “The Tri-County area is full of talent, so we wanted to have a chance to showcase that to our local recruiters.”
The fair had 18 companies in attendance including the Miami Herald, the South Florida Business Journal, WPLG/Channel 10, Telemundo, I Heart Media, the Sun Sentinel, NBC 6, the Miami Dolphins and the Miami Heat.
Samantha Ragland is a recruiter for the Palm Beach Post who learned about the fair after Diasgranados texted her in November and asked her to be on a panel. “In my former life, I was an adjunct professor and I loved it. Nothing energizes a life like students hungry for knowledge, so I try to give back as often as I can,” she said.
Ragland attended the fair with a few missions. “One was to recruit a full-time social media producer, the last of which was hired at the NAHJ job fair at FIU in Spring 2016. Two, I wanted to recruit for possible interns and spread the word about Cox Media Group's Digital Talent Program, a super rad career program for digital journalists of color,” she said. “And three, to pour into whoever needed to be filled.”
The panels created by Diasgranados were great, said Ragland. “The applicants listened and soaked up everything. Some stayed after to ask more questions. Often, they needed simply to be encouraged,” she observed. “The field is competitive and the application process can be disheartening. Can you believe that I'm actually still answering emails from the fair? They're asking about business cards and resume advice and to tell me they've applied. It's great.”
The quality of the job fair attendees was great, said Ragland. “I was especially appreciative of their diverse experience. There were several who had been out of the industry for years, others who were venturing into media entrepreneurial projects, some recent grads and others still in school. The conversations were great,” she said.
“Most seemed to want careers in broadcast, which I took as an opportunity to speak with them about digital media opportunities and to expand their job search to include digital positions and not just on-air ones since the former is such a cool blend of broadcast, print and digital skills,” Ragland noted. “While I'm not the hiring manager for the social media producer position or for the interns at The Palm Beach Post, I'm often on the interview panel. We are definitely hiring for these positions and look to have them filled as soon as possible.”
Sofie Tapia, a recent graduate from the University of Kentucky journalism program, flew in specifically to attend the job fair after learning about it in the NABJ Student Facebook group. “I have yet to find a job and am in the limbo phase that most graduates go through,” she said. “Fortunately, I found out about the job fair and have a friend who lives in Miami. I decided that it was worth it to pursue job options in Miami since I was able to do so with relative ease.”
The job fair had a decent range of candidates in fields ranging from print to radio to broadcast, said Tapia. “One of the strongest aspects of this career fair was the discussion panel. It was helpful to have professionals in the field answer questions and prepare candidates before they even spoke to potential employers,” she said. “Some of the employers at the booths even gave attendees tips on their resumes.”
There were recruiters looking to hire interns and professionals who knew how to read and write Spanish and Creole, said Diasgranados. “That's uncommon in other areas [of the country]. We also wanted this event to be our kick off to unite fellow journalists in the area and bring on board new members at the start of the year,” he said.
Attendees also had the chance to attend two career-related workshops that turned out to be a hit, said Diasgranados.
“Both workshops were filled to capacity, to the point we had people standing up to listen to the panelists,” he said. “Everyone's path is different. We wanted to provide thought-provoking plenary workshops to discuss resumes, how to get your foot in the door, industry changes and hot topics, including fake news. It also provided a chance for job seekers to ask questions and meet with panelists one on one after so they could ask questions and get advice.”
The career fair was a vision dating back to last August, Diasgranados recalled. “I pitched the idea to then-President Suzette Maylor, who loved the idea and said, `Go for it, and let me know how we can assist you.’ Little did she know that I was dead serious on making this the biggest event the chapter has ever put on,” he said.
At the chapter’s December board meeting, a goal of having 50 to 80 people show up was set, said Diasgranados. “We said 50 would be satisfactory and 100 would be good. It took everyone by surprise when the checked Eventbrite the night before the event and it showed 271 RSVPs,” he said.
SFBJA had only booked a small classroom, said Diasgranados. “So we had to come up with a new game plan that night to handle crowd control. So in all, it took about five months to plan. I had a committee work with me along the way, so it made managing the event 10 times easier,” he said. “We spent very little on our fair. We received sponsorships for breakfast and lunch for the recruiters. We did purchase signs and wristbands. Overall, we may have spent $180.”
Diasgranados has advice for other NABJ chapters who may want to put on a similar event. “Give yourself at least five months to plan. It may sound easy, but it's far from it. There are so many pieces to hosting an event like this and it's impossible to do it with only two or three people, so plan to have a committee of at least five people who are ready to work,” he advised. “If you're starting from scratch like us, it takes a while to find and locate the various recruiters at each company. And reaching out to sponsors also takes time.”
Finding panelists that fit within your panel can be tricky, said Diasgranados. “Marketing is a big component. The Miami Dolphins did very well this season (unexpectedly) and made the playoffs, so that was a concern to us,” he said. “We also had to schedule around the inauguration. It's hard to predict what will happen five months ahead, so all you can do is plan and prepare for any scenario.”
The chapter plans to carry the momentum from the fair by continuing to train up-and-coming minority news reporters and help them succeed in their careers, said Diasgranados. “Also, a lot of the job-seekers have never been to NABJ convention, so we wanted to show them on a smaller scale how we run the career fair and workshops,” he explained.
The ultimate goal was to help the job seekers find their next professional opportunity and even connect them with possible long-term mentors who could help guide them in their future endeavors.