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Women for Hire

By Tory Johnson

Tory Johnson is CEO of Women For Hire.

Founding Women for Hire

My career began with communications positions at ABC News, NBC News and Nickelodeon, where I helped promote the work of network superstars like Barbara Walters, Jane Pauley and Maria Shriver.

After several years of that, I decided to turn my attention to a group of people who I thought could benefit from my hard work a whole lot more: young women entering the workplace.

I founded Women For Hire in July 1999 for two reasons. The first was to give bright young women from all colleges and universities (not just the biggest ones) who are serious about professional careers a place exclusively for them to feel comfortable and confident while meeting face-to-face with top recruiters. In essence, giving them that foot-in-the-door.

I also wanted to offer leading employers the opportunity to meet in one place with a diverse group of terrific female candidates, including college seniors, grad students and women with up to about five years of experience.

At first, it was just me--in the corner of my Manhattan bedroom, cold-calling college recruiters at major companies I wanted to target for participation. I recruited my own army of volunteers--my mom, my husband, a dear old aunt and even my 76-year-old father-in-law--to help me plan and execute our first two events. (Never underestimate your family: mine came through for me at a time when I needed them most. Even my three kids were wildly helpful.)

The Idea

How'd I get the idea? About a year ago, I was hanging out with my brother David's college friends, many of whom were women. This was right before their senior year of college at NYU. I expected tremendous excitement and enthusiasm about finishing up and getting out on their own.

Instead, I learned they were most anxious about how they'd land jobs.

These were smart, sophisticated women: no lack of egos among this group. They were genuinely concerned about their ability to get in front of employers, to beat the competition and to begin their careers.

Women for Hire Career Fairs

They now have a place of their own--career fairs in several United State cities held throughout the year.

An amazing roster of leading companies in nearly every line of business will participate. (Since the participants vary in each market, please check our website at Women for Hire for a complete list of companies and their job descriptions.)

The media also picked up quickly on the Women For Hire concept. We were featured twice on NBC's Today show, among other coverage, which led to an overwhelming national response from women asking how they could tap into our services.

One thing that's critical when looking for a job is maintaining and exuding self-confidence. Really being your best. I think women appreciate an environment that’s supportive of them and conducive to making them feel their best while learning about career opportunities and interviewing for jobs. Women For Hire events also level the playing field for lots of amazing women--regardless of the school they attended.

On the side of employers, we know one of the greatest challenges is finding truly qualified candidates in a time-efficient and cost-effective manner, especially in such a competitive environment. We’re very successful on this front.

The Importance of Real World Interaction

While the Internet will clearly play a more important role in recruiting in the future, it's impossible to underestimate the value and importance of "real world" interaction. While technology seems more amazing every day, the best employers don't rely exclusively on online services for recruiting. It's just one piece of their overall program.

Why Job Fairs Work

Employers and candidates are out to develop lasting relationships. And all relationships demand personal contact and interaction. That's why job fairs work.

Furthermore, diversity is not a cyclical issue or a meaningless buzzword. It's a necessity that makes good business sense, and most companies wrestle with it. We help employers fulfill their important diversity goals.

My professional goals are still a work in progress, and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished. We’ve now got a great office with a fabulous team that’s committed to producing the best career fairs.

Nothing's more rewarding than getting an email from a young woman who attended one of our events thanking us for helping to jumpstart her career. We also get great feedback from those who don't land jobs, but who say it was worth the experience because it improved their networking skills, which is invaluable.

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