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A Day At the Fair

I wrote this on March 17, 2010. You'd figure St. Patrick's Day would be a day of celebration, but this fair in Rome, Georgia was different. Here's how that event turned out.

Going to a fair was always something I looked forward to when I was a kid. It was one of those great family events to be remembered for years to come. We’d remember the rides, the food, and other fun times we had. And today, I went to a fair thinking about those past glory days. But this was a different fair altogether. There were no rides, no flashing lights, and no food. This was a job fair.

I have attended many job fairs over the past few years. Most of them can be renamed cattle calls, because there are so many applicants for so few positions. This was no exception. The organizers correctly prepared for the large number of people who attended the fair, because they came in waves. It was the only way to do it according to the fire marshal. I was in the second of several waves.

When I attend a job fair, I go dressed in full battle gear. Full battle gear is a suit, nice shirt, tie, black leather shoes, etc. Many of the attendees dressed professionally. Others wore t-shirts and blue jeans. Some of those t-shirts were colorful and several had rather colorful language on them.

When the second wave of applicants was allowed in, we were in a line near the outside wall of the building. Then they led us into a meeting room, which was nothing more than a holding area until the first wave of applicants thinned out enough to allow us in. They had a speaker there to help make our job search easier. This was the highlight of the day.

The speaker talked about the 13 S’s of working a job fair, which won’t be reviewed here. They were tools starting with the letter S you could use to make your search more effective at a job fair. I already knew most of them, but the reminders didn’t hurt.

The first wave finally thinned out enough for the fire marshal to let us in. On the way, I ran into an old friend who was in the first wave. He gave me a heads-up on what to expect and it wasn’t good. That’s when I realized this was nothing more than a dog and pony show. Cattle call or not, I went in.

There were a lot of companies present. I immediately put three of the 13 S’s to use. First, I surveyed and scoped them. I knew who some were, but never heard of a lot of them. Then I made one pass to survey, one pass to scope, and one pass to strike. Like my friend did, after scoping, I ended up talking to only five or six companies. None of those conversations ended up with an interview, though.

Most of the companies there were either looking for people in the medical profession or “marketers”. Having taken my share of marketing courses in college, I knew there is no single definition of the term. In this case, I knew exactly what the term “marketers” meant. It’s another name for commission only sales based on cold calls. I call them “scam sales”. In some companies, you have to pay a hefty fee for a license to be able to sell a particular product or service. I avoided these people like the plague. The medical based companies (hospitals, senior care, etc.), were pretty straightforward with their job descriptions.

The last group of companies there was the government. Ironically, this was the group with the best opportunities. They also featured websites you can search for jobs that were recently posted. In fact, instead of taking applications and interviewing candidates, they referred us to their websites and wished us a good day. When I had a chance to look them up, the jobs they had posted at their booths were old listings that were filled.

In a job fair, you can see if companies are hiring when you see them interviewing people behind their booths. Outside of the scam sale companies, nobody was being interviewed…nobody. They weren’t even accepting resumes. They would only accept paper applications. One local newspaper used generic blank applications, which was odd. It was an exclamation point to a fair that was really a PR event.

Although the job fair was a grand waste of time, it wasn’t a total loss. As I drove home, disappointed by the lack of real job opportunities, I was grateful that, unlike a lot of applicants, I have a job. And you never know. Sometimes opportunity knocks at the oddest times in the oddest places.

One can only hope.

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