Job Search Strategy: Job Fairs, Like Being An Undesirable Date

In my search for underemployment, I’ve started off by focusing on job fairs, since it’s an opportunity to get out of the house and get a sense of what other job seekers are experiencing.

Job Fair – lots of shaking of hands

Unfortunately, it’s definitely not fun!

Job Fairs – You Can Smell the Desperation

During my job search, I dedicated a significant amount of time going to job fairs, which entice applicants with the (supposed) certainty that there are representatives from companies that have real job openings and who are actively looking for candidates.

The reality, though, is that if you are just starting out on the job search, going to job fairs can be pretty depressing.

It’s sort of like when you’re a guy going to a club where there’s an overwhelming number of guys on the dance floor watching a much smaller number of hot girls dancing (girls usually just dancing with each other or a significant other). A rational guy in this situation looks at the odds and just resigns himself with enjoying the view and grabbing a drink.

Or when you’re a girl going to a young adult event at church, and it turns out that it’s always 80% women, and the guys who are there are often with their significant others. You quickly come to the realization that the edgy, “bad boy” types that pique your interest are rarely church go-ers, and then resign yourself to a night of commiserating about your situation with other girls (or with the nice guys who never can get out of the friend zone with you.)

It’s basically the same thing with job fairs, even in this current period of historically low unemployment rates.

Most fairs literally have lines out the door of the hotel hosting it, to the point where hotel staff allow only a certain number in at one time (like the velvet rope at a club). In that sense, it’s similar to a cattle call for open casting auditions!

It’s while waiting in those lines that I’ve compared notes with other job searchers. One was an accountant in his 50’s who got laid off because the company moved the office to a lower cost area in North Carolina and those who didn’t relocate were terminated. He cynically thought that it was a convenient way to get rid of the older employees with established families (and thus unwilling to move) and about to get a pension. Or a woman who had similarly gotten laid off and has been looking for 4 months.

For anyone not already a bit down and depressed about having lost their job, going to a job fair will make you wish you never got out of bed!

White Collar Professional Job Openings: Sales, Sales, Sales!

This is supposed to be a financial advisor…

Despite what may be advertised by the job fair organizer, the vast majority of the positions being hired for at white collar professional job fairs are in sales. And not high level, complex enterprise sales. Just entry level B2B or B2C sales. Often, there is cold calling or the expectation that you’ll use your own friends and family network to bring in potential customers to the company. In some cases, there is no salary but instead just straight commission.

I believe that this is the case because entry level sales is an extremely high turnover type of job (in a sense, churn and burn) and so companies need a steady stream of fresh (and naïve) faces. And, such newbies are so low on the totem pole that even if they were to leave, any new customers gotten by them would likely stay with the company. This is especially the case in financial advisor and insurance sales type of jobs.

How about you?

Have you been to job fairs recently, and if so what has been your experience?

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