My afternoon at a job fair.

One of the last vestiges of the pre digital job hunting age (besides the newspaper ad) is the job fair. At one time (back when there were more jobs than qualified applicants) job fairs were one of the best ways to meet potential employers. That was then. That was back when there were jobs to be had. Boy have things changed!

One of the job search sites I am using has a variety of job events around the region and encourages you to go to them. Okay, the networking thing isn’t really working to well yet so I might as well go down and see what is there and see if I can hand out some resumes. I had been to one of them a few weeks before and it wasn’t much but I was hoping that that was just a fluke.

Now, having been on the other side of the desk as it were, I know how to dress when looking for a job. You never know who is manning the booth or is behind the counter. I was managing a truck stop once and was fully responsible for all hiring. While pulling a shift behind the counter, two young “ladies” (and I use the term loosely) came in and asked if we were hiring and then for an application. Both were wearing torn jeans, crop tops and flip-flops (oh and popping gum!). On top of that, while standing in front of me filling out the applications, they discussed how they would lie on the app! Needless to say there applications never made it to my files cabinet! My point is, when looking for a job, be prepared at any time to meet someone in a position of influence. Another point to keep in mind is that you never know who is observing you and who may have influence in the hiring decision. That secretary behind the desk may be the boss’s wife. Heck, she MAYBE the boss! Even if you are just “dropping off an application”, dress for an interview.

Anyway, I digress. So I dress in my sales professional wear (nice slacks, button down pale blue shirt, Sport coat, tie, polished loafers), print up my resumes on nice quality bond paper, put them in my leather portfolio, head out to get a haircut and then off to the job fair. Now for another tip; get the haircut BEFORE you put on the dress shirt! Jeez, little hairs everywhere! Okay, got that cleaned up and I’m off.

I arrive at the location to find a nearly full parking lot and make my way to the front lobby. Now knowing the particular venue, a Holiday Inn , I didn’t really expect a large event and I was almost shocked at what I saw when I entered the lobby. The line for this thing (and it had been open for an hour) wrapped around the outer wall of the entire hotel lobby and doubled back on its self! It was an hour to the door!

I have never seen anything like this outside of a fire department mass hiring “cattle call”!  It turns out that the conference room where this was being held was small and they were only letting people in when somebody left. The line kept moving but like I said, it took an hour to get to the door. It was in this line that I started noticing how people were dressed. Since when did jeans and hoodies become okay for job hunting? Or a bright red quilted ski jacket? How about an old cowboy hat? Now don’t get me wrong, I own several cowboy hats and there is a place and time for them. A job fair in the middle of a city in California neither the time nor the place for a crushed, work style straw Stetson! Yes, if you were applying at a ranch outside of Tehama for a ranch hand job, sure but not here. And what is with the two guys that look like they snuck over here on their break from the McDonalds’ down the street, still in uniform and smelling of fries? I know that they may not have had any other time but come on “dudes”, bring a change of clothes to work! Don’t show up to a job fair in a Micky D’s uniform!

Oh well, makes my chances better. Most of the people there were dressed in a coat and tie, or at least a button up shirt and tie, and the women in nice dresses, skirts, pantsuits and the like, so they all get it.

I finally reach the door to the conference room after an hour only to discover that it is an absolute zoo inside! The place is packed (probably over capacity), and there are very few employers here! You have got to be kidding me! I waited in line an hour to find more lines stretching clear across the room (in both directions, the lines were crisscrossing!)  and maybe 15 employers there? And not all of them were actual employers either! Pardon my French, but WTF? Who allows people like Pre-Paid Legal at a job fair? What’s next, Amway/Quixtar? Two of the booths were about getting state and federal jobs 9nop hiring, just flyers) but with the mess this state is in, getting a state job could end you right back here at another job fair in 6 months or collecting minimum wage because the Governator and the legislators are fighting again (still!).

Very disappointed, I made the rounds in about 15 minutes. Half of the room was healthcare (mostly looking for RN’s) so no point in stopping there unless they want to pay me to go to school and guarantee a job with them on the other side. CarMax was there again, still running through car sales virgins like Guy Fieri though Diners.

They were having a resume review over against one wall and it look like the line was short so I figured that, since I had not had to do a resume in years, mine probably needed some pointers. Might as well try to get something out of the day, right? This shouldn’t take too long and I could get back to trying to dig up more job leads, right? Wrong… It turns out that the line doubled up on itself at one point and it too was over an hour long! When I got to the front, I was expecting people from HR firms or Job agencies to be doing the reviews, somebody that has experience in reading them and hiring people. Wrong again. What they had were people that had one man resume writing shops or were life style/job search “coaches”. Personally, I sometimes think these “coaches” couldn’t find jobs, got lucky helped some friend find a job and decided to go into business themselves. What I got was one person’s opinion on what was wrong with my resume. The sad thing was that my resume was pretty close to one of the guys I was in line with (both done on MS Word templates, with near identical layouts), my person hated mine and “deconstructed” it, and his “coach” liked his. Go figure.

All and all it was a disappointment and a bit of a waste of time (I had an hour drive on each side of this). It wasn’t a complete waste because I did learn that the days of job fairs being a great place for finding a job, are way over, and also I learned that no matter how bad things are, how desperate the economic situation is, some people still aren’t serious about finding a job.


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