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Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Scenes From a Job Fair.
In my on-going quest to find full-time permanent employment, I went to yet another job fair yesterday. This one took place at the 100 Oaks Mall and was advertised as featuring over 150 employers. (I didn't bother to count the number of booths to verify the accuracy of this claim.)

After remembering that I needed to update my resume and business cards with some new contact info and then taking care of that, I headed up for the mall. I arrived at the mall parking lot (which most of the time when I cruise by it's pretty empty--100 Oaks seems to be losing ground quickly) and it was hopping. I parked a reasonable distance away, got my briefcase out and headed into the mall. I got inside and things were hopping. I was given a plastic bag full of goodies--namely a pen, a map of who was there and information on each of the companies on site. I then took a deep breath, went over my 30-second speech about myself and went into the breach.

First of all, the one thing I'll have to say about job fairs if they are pretty much a cattle call. The only thing really missing is everyone wearing cow bells and mooing. Second of all, I kind of enjoy going to them not because this whole process of looking for permanent employment is fun (it's not really..it's too much like work, only without vacation days and sick leave!) but because it's a great opportunity to people watch. I am always intrigued by the people at career and job fairs--especially in how they dress. In the whole job search thing as in life, there is never a second chance to make a first impression. Also, it's easier to be overdressed and then remove things like a tie or a coat to dress down than it is to dress-up once you're actually out there. Apparently a lot of people have not heard this advice because at any career fair, you will see a variety of people dressed in things such as T-shirts and ripped up shorts and flip-flops. (I am not making this up!) Of course, I think that I am extremely fortunate to be a guy because that really limits our choices a good deal--you go for the nice, conservative suit with a light shirt and a nice tie. Really the only choice you've got is the tie and that is pretty much not too difficult. For women, well, they have so many choices it's mindboggling. And you see all types of display at the career fair. There are some who dress very business casual, but I also saw a lot in mini-skirts and tight T-shirts as well. It's just all over the place.

Oh and here's another thing--some of the outfits chosen by both men and women looked like they'd been slept in for SEVERAL days. There is nothing like the "gee, I just rolled out of bed and didn't have anything else to do today, so I figured why not go get a job?" look that makes you REALLY attractive to potential employers.

Walking around the various booths, there were some companies that I didn't approach simply because a)they didn't have a position I was looking for or b)I was not qualified for anything they would offer. For example, you see a booth that is looking for medical professionals and you keep on going. That ain't me--anyone who knows me, knows I pass out with needles so being someone in the medical profession, not really going to happen. Also, sales just is not one of my strengths, so I tend to steer clear of those kinds of opportunities as well. But I did go up and speak to some of them. I even had to wait in line for a few, which I guess is good for them. And, of course, some I just cruised to get the free candy or other give-aways.

I stood in line at several, only to be told I was overqualified for anything they had, but thanks for stopping by. They'd keep my resume, but I shouldn't expect to hear anything from them. Which is fine--at least they're honest. One woman who told me I was overqualified then asked if I'd checked several web sites for jobs and gave me some suggestions. She just wanted to help out and I appreciate that. It's better than just plain, flat-out rejection.

I stopped at one booth and was shuffled from person-to-person. I finally got to the gentlemen that I was pointed toward and began speaking to him, keeping a mental note on the time. I figured about two minutes it the tops really unless you're knocking a home run. You want to be memorable in a good way, not in a negative way. And being seen as a bit of a stalker or way too wordy and stuck on yourself--not the best way to get full-time long term employment. While speaking to this gentleman, I could tell he was distracted. Apparently he saw someone behind me or off to the side that he had to speak to. So much so that he grabbed my resume, said they might be in contact and then dashed off down the mall. I then watched him catch up to an attractive blonde girl in a professional but short skirt, say, "I saw you looking at our booth. Are you interested in working for us?" and then begin to talk in detail to her. Guess that shows you the type of person they're looking for, huh?

As I continued my quest, I came upon another booth with a guy dressed in jeans and a polo shirt. He was speaking to the recruiter for the company and they seemed to have a good banter going. I was interested in the company so I decided to wait for an opportunity to ask some questions and introduce myself. At this point, I overheard the recruiter say, "I really think you'd be a great fit. May I have a copy of your resume?" to the job looker. At this point, the job looker says, "Well, I only have a few resumes left and I would really rather save those for a company I really want to work for." Needless to say, I wandered off and came back to this booth a few minutes later. I can't imagine that I'd make any impression about the recruiter was verbally slapped so.

So, the question is--will I find a job from any of this? The answer is probably not. But I could have told you that going into the job fair. But I didn't go up there necessarily looking for a job. (What?!? you ask. Isn't that the purpose?!?) I went into this job fair hoping to get some names with which to network. I may not necessarily have been qualified for what they were hiring for that day or were looking for, but I might be able to get my name in there later, when you aren't talking to a million people all in various stages of fashion. Now I did hand out a few resumes and a lot of business cards, so we'll see how that goes. I am also intrigued by a little experiment I performed. I recently heard a career counselor talk about a different way of creating an active as opposed to a passive resume. Figuring that I'd be one of a herd, I worked on an active resume a bit to see what might happen. I gave out copies of both resumes yesterday, depending on what the recruiter was looking for from me. So I am intrigued to see which resume--if any--gets the most response.

And I'm still thinking I should write a book about job hunting. Not one that tells you how to find a job, but a Dave-Barry-like humorous one. Heaven knows if I didn't find a way to find the humor in all of this, I'd have gone insane a long, long time ago.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/23/2004 12:32:00 PM | |
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