This morning’s career fair was scheduled to start at 10:00. About that time I was sitting on a stalled downtown V train reading ads for law firms and lottery tickets and thinking John Roland and the Take 5 Little Bit of Luck guy might be related. They’re definitely both creepy. Traffic was light for morning rush hour, probably because I was on a local train. Others also wore business suits. I wondered if they had jobs or were heading to the same place I was. I felt like a kid in his Sunday best playing grownup, and failing.
The line of waiting job seekers extended all the way down the block, around the corner and up that block. Sales people worked the line plugging discount health insurance and thinly veiled pyramid schemes – predators preying on the injured, like “Animal Planet” in business attire. That’s the capitalist spirit! Jobs must really be hard to come by these days. You’d think there was some kind of economic crisis going on… silly rabbits. The line moved quickly.
My expectations were low from the outset. I go to these things during every job search (typing that makes me cringe) and never have anything resembling success. After the last career fair, I swore them off for good. But there I was, two years later and another layoff under my belt. Fresh copies of my resume – printed on good paper – were in my bag. Maybe this time would be different.
The cast of companies and the types of jobs are always about the same. This event’s lineup included life insurance and makeup companies, along with some education companies and, of course, the military. It just wouldn’t be a career fair party extravaganza without the military. The jobs are usually sales-related, and that was especially true this time around. Companies seem to come to fill positions they can’t fill in other ways. Why again would I want a job that no one wants? Oh right, a paycheck. Got it.
Companies were arranged in two rows, each at a foldout table with a generic sign hanging from a curtain backdrop. The scene resembled a really scaled-back conference that no one wanted to attend. The major difference (aside from the distinct lack of free pens and squishy balls) was that the hard-sell sales pitch went the other direction. My job, when I reached the front of each insanely long line of job seekers, was to sell myself. Their job was to listen, give me some corporate info and move me along.
The first company seemed the most promising. Their openings are all over the job boards, and their business has to be booming right about now. And they’re not McDonald’s. I introduced myself to the rep and gave my spiel (marketing professional, MBA, market research and packaging experience, blah blah blah). She asked what blah blah blah meant and passed me along to a colleague who could give more insight into relevant openings. I waited patiently to talk to him. An odd older woman who was neither affiliated with the company nor in search of work started asking me random questions. When she wandered off, I exchanged WTF glances with the person next to me. The second rep was more knowledgeable than the first; the jobs were in his department. He made it clear, in an informed but pleasant way, that I really wasn’t qualified for the two marketing openings. He encouraged me to convince him otherwise via email. He was right, I’m probably not qualified. But I may try anyway. It’s only time.
The second interesting organization – someplace I actually temped once – turned out to be not at all interesting. And the line was so long and slow-moving that a few people in it asked me to kill them, begged me even. One woman actually grabbed my leg and wouldn’t let go. It was kind of embarrassing. I declined all death requests, of course, claiming that I couldn’t risk damaging my suit. I needed it for future interviews. Interview… me… that’s rich. Luckily the career fair pamphlet actually listed the jobs this company had available. There was nothing in my field. There wasn’t even anything that began with the same first letter as marketing, at least nothing that didn’t end in “aintenance.” I skipped their table altogether.
The third company on my list was only interesting because I have a good friend who works there. He’s way too senior to be manning a table at a job fair, never mind that he lives in another state. But at the time it seemed possible he could be there. He wasn’t, of course. I left.
An overcast morning had turned into a beautiful Spring day. I put on my iPod and strolled to the subway. Fare card swiped, I descended the steps only to see the sign for Brooklyn-bound trains. This was the wrong direction. Catching the Queens-bound train required leaving the station and entering on the other side. When I did, the turnstyle wouldn’t let me through. It was too soon to swipe an unlimited fare card again. I leaned against a pillar and waited. I wasn’t going anywhere.