Comdex as career fair

This year’s Comdex struck me as particularly lean and mean. Attendance was down, but griping was up.

Exhibitors kvetched about bum deals and weak turnouts, while visitors I spoke with complained about having to make do with free candy instead of mouse pads and stress toys, the swag of the

show’s glory days.

Griping aside, there were some interesting developments at this year’s show, a point made clear in Thursday’s editorial by Shane Schick.

I stuck to the trade show, for the most part, and noticed a growing interest in the professional and accreditation organizations that usually dot the edges of the floor.

They don’t have wide-screen monitors or free T-shirts, but groups like the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS) and the Association of Web Professionals (AWP) may see their numbers grow in the near future, as struggling IT workers try to gain an edge.

Overall, corporate IT budgets are expected to dip by 14 per cent this year, according to Forrester Research Inc. RHI Consulting Inc. forecasts a “”conservative”” hiring climate in the United States this year, with 80 per cent of CIOs interviewed saying there would be “”no change”” in hiring . (Another recent RHI survey found that 40 per cent of CIOs say physical appearance is a very important factor when interviewing job candidates, so take a bath after you certify.)

Two attendees I spoke with commented specifically on the AWP booth. Even though it was tucked away in a corner, it made an impression on them. They talked about how the IT sector’s troubles make it harder not only for vendors, but also employees. One way to get ahead may involve accreditation, which could in turn offer networking opportunities, they said.

Reps for AWP told me attendance was better than they’d expected and that they’re predicting more interest in their accreditation programs in the future.

Then there were the booth trawls. These are workers or students who hit vendors up for jobs in the middle of the show. It’s desperate and rude behaviour, and judging from anecdotal evidence, it could be on the rise.

One exhibitor told me about a third of the traffic to his booth on Wednesday involved people looking for employment. Other vendors said they’d been approached, but that it’s to be expected. It’s kind of like the guy walking around with the foam toilet on his head at this year’s show (symbolizing wasted tech support time or somesuch). It’s pretty tacky, but still part of the show.

While begging for jobs isn’t going to work, visiting professional associations at Comdex may pay off down the line for attendees. Even just making the rounds can lead to important contacts and future opportunities.

Let’s hope it works for the guy wearing the toilet on his head, but he doesn’t seem flushed with excitement just yet.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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