Job Fairs – A Public Relations Stunt

I’m copy/pasting an entry I made on my personal blog since it is actually more applicable here.

That post didn’t admit to me being a serious job searcher, but I am…

The friend was actually my boyfriend who has been out of work for eight months. It is discouraging.


I took a friend to a job fair this week to support the job search.

What a disheartening event!

This job fair was actually in Loudon County, Virginia. What does that mean? It means that this job fair was held in one of the wealthiest counties in the nation. Ok, well, at least it was a year or two ago. So, I found the experience quite shocking and feel for the rest of the country.

The publicity promised to have a lot of corporations, government contractors (more applicable names may be “beltway bandits” or “private” sector), and government agencies. As publicized, they were all there.

We arrived over an hour early and so we were about 30th and 31st in line respectively. We quickly made friends with the couple of people in front and in back of us. One woman was a substitute teacher looking for a full-time teaching job in Loudon County. She’s been subbing for two years. The other was a fairly high level contracts type person with great interpersonal skills and professional appearance. She’s been out of work four months. I was the only person in the immediate surroundings that 1.) Has a job and 2.) Has a stable job.

The discussion over the hour of wait was both realistic and funny. It seemed to give everyone an extra boost of confidence to have the moral support of “the line.” I even had hopes of running into a better opportunity as the doors finally opened and everyone swarmed in with resumes, sweaty palms, empty pocket books and high hopes.

All I can say is that I really feel for everyone out there looking. And, a word of advice – don’t bother with the job fairs!

Each and every booth resulted in the same interaction. Something like this:”Hi, my name is …””Hi, …. how are you?””Good, how are you?””Good, I am interested in … do you have any opportunities in these areas?””We don’t” or “Yes, here is one. If you go to our website and apply ….”

Really? You are going to have all of these people dress up, copy off resumes, drive out here, stand in line (and rain), trigger anxiety attacks talking to table after table and you are going to tell them to “go online and apply” for positions that they have either already seen or will see on the Internet?

The people showing up to this gathering weren’t idiots. They all looked professional and experienced. Some of them appeared to be CEO material. Most of them work on the corridor a few miles away dubbed “Silicon Valley East” which means these people can either create your resume database or hack it. Or, manipulate the Internet to give you bad publicity. Regardless, it was obvious that they had taken time to look good, pump themselves up (or get a pep talk from a friend) and walk into the masses hoping to somehow stand apart from the throng.

I even felt demoralized as I targeted a few booths to keep myself occupied just in case my dream job somehow existed nestled between the CIA and Homeland Security booth. Yeh, that didn’t happen. Or, they just didn’t “confirm or deny” it existed.

I walked outside after just one hour and saw the line meandering around the building and to the back of the parking lot. It did something to me. I wanted to cry, but even more I wanted to go give a piece of my mind to someone in charge. All the while, more and more cars were driving up. I wanted to get on a speaker phone and tell the people not to bother and to just go home, put on their pajamas and search the web. Better spend the time there and at networking events than partake of a job fair.

I have some ideas of how to improve this situation. I’m not going to put them here, but the wheels are turning and a more solutions based idea may be emerging from my head soon. No more wasting time of professional people that are already facing tough times.

And, by the way, it won’t involve sending the intern or the lowest paid entry level employee to man the booth. I actually inquired about something I saw and was told to go talk to someone in another line. I asked, “Does this person you are sending me to have hiring authority?” They did not. So, I turned around and went elsewhere.

All in all, I’m glad I went. There is something different that happens to you when you are actually standing there and not watching this take place on tv. You see faces. You talk to those faces and they become people. You run into those people every few minutes during the event and share feelings. People turn into friends. Friends care about friends.

Times are tough. I’m feeling the impact in my life and doing my best to pay my bills, live simply, help others in need and try to express daily gratitude that I do have a job.

Let’s stop the public relation stunts marketed as “job fairs” and do something that really connects talent to openings. We do want positive outcomes, don’t we? Right now it’s just discouraging the jobless and creating more traffic jams in the DC area (though the later is less important).

I’m going to be keeping my eye out for a few more people…and perhaps created a new kind of fair of my own. But, I’ll make sure to keep my day job.

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