By Susan J. Anderson, CC
I used to go to job fairs. Filled with hope and armed with plenty of resumes, I was a person, behind the paper, with many skills to offer a prospective employer. This was my day to shine and be noticed. However, after disappointments at large metropolitan job fairs, I now realize my time would be better spent elsewhere. People I know have received leads at job fairs, but, I know of no one who has gotten a job.
The high rate of unemployment in northern Illinois has been a major concern on many levels. A member of congress hosted a job fair at a local community college to demonstrate a proactive position on getting the unemployed back to work. There had been a great deal of publicity leading up to the event. The parking lot was very full and it was apparent there would be a large turnout.
I arrived early, before the doors opened. About 150 other attendees had the same idea and were ahead of me. When the doors opened, everyone was asked to sign in and identify their congressional district. Hmm, was this event meant to benefit job seekers or a politician? Organizers had each of us write out a name tag to wear and we were handed a bottle of water. Maps showed where each agency or company had a table. Time to outline a strategy!
The doors finally opened and people passed from the lobby into the hallways like sand through an hourglass. Monitors at the entrances limited the number of people who could enter a room when the capacity had been reached. What a cattle call! Very quickly the rooms were hot and noisy.
Popular employers had enormous lines gathering to talk with representatives. This would become a lesson in patience and perseverance. The company at the top of my list only had a banner hung over a vacant table. This was discouraging! I asked an organizer if this booth would be manned later in the day. She didn’t know of any changes and said, “Check back later.”
Another employer on my list had four reps at their stall. Approximately 40 people were in line at each station. Lines moved slowly. The individuals at the booth looked like the youngest, least experienced staffers from the HR department. Or, they drew the short straws.
With such a long wait ahead of me, I started conversations with others around me. The man in front of me had been out of work over a year. He went to as many job fairs as his schedule would permit. For him, freebies with corporate logos were great “perks”. Over time, he had accumulated quite a collection of T-shirts, tote bags, water bottles, pens and similar advertising items. He stated with pride, “Even if I don’t get a job, I haven’t walked away empty-handed.” I found this sad and rather depressing.
I took in my surroundings. This room was crowded with talented job seekers eager to work. Were there job openings? There was so much wrong with this system.
After 40 minutes had passed, I was nearing the front of the line. A staffer behind the table needed to step away for a few minutes. When she failed to return after 10 minutes, a near riot ensued.
Hurray! Nearly an hour later, I was shaking hands with an HR person. He made some small talk, glanced at my resume and turned it upside down on a pile behind him. He wasn’t aware of any openings in my field and referred me to the corporate website. This long wait was unsatisfactory as well as unproductive.
Other interactions weren’t much better. I was frequently directed to the corporate website no matter which booth I visited. Were the participating companies actually hiring? I had my doubts. Was this merely a way to see who was in job search and build their files? Likely these companies felt pressured to be visible in the community. They could check the box that they were present at the job fair.
A federal agency participated. They had openings – in Virginia! This wasn’t a good fit if you lived in Illinois…
The “prime” employer on my list never appeared. The staffers at the tables where I had waited an hour earlier in the day looked hassled. They had the appearance of cornered, caged animals with nowhere to run. They were sentenced to a very long day.
Time to go! On my way out, an organizer asked me to complete a short survey about my experience at the job fair. In summary, I stated I was happy to have given my resume to target companies, but, it seemed doubtful I would land employment as a result of coming to the job fair.
The choice is yours. I would only recommend going to smaller job fairs where you may be noticed.
Have you, or anyone you know, landed a job after going to a job fair?
Susan J. Anderson, CC is a Communications Professional, Blogger, Business Writer, Copywriter and Speaker.
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