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Candy and Keychains: Job Fairs

One of the things that was left remarkably unchanged during my time away from Buffalo is the job fairs. Job fairs are there so a person can get his name out to one or two dozen employers at once, at least in theory.

In my experiences, job fairs are there to act as a giant pissing contest for employers who need to take the short road on the way to glamor and respectability. They’re not there for the applicants, but for the businesses who need evidence to brag about how many applications they’re receiving, how many people they’re hiring, and the great growth potential and opportunities. For even the savviest and most decorated job hunters, they’re a pleasant opportunity to grab some free candy and expand their keychain collections.

My last couple of job fairs had nothing but the same reliable plays out of the boring playbook. There were financial advisors, call centers, the military and a handful of government agencies, and cash-register jobs. Many booths play up the earning potential – the key word is always going to be POTENTIAL – of a place with revolving door turnover, because the companies that use that term require provision of licensing fees or client lists. It feels like luck to spot a place at a job fair which sells fast food, if only because it breaks up the monotony. If a fairgoer really IS lucky, there will be one or two legitimately good places to work, who will pay a decent wage with decent benefits.

At job fairs, my first scouring of the area is a look for temp agencies, where I always leave resumes. I also keep an eye out for the good employers, of which I was lucky enough to find one in two fairs: First Niagara. Unfortunately, the legitimate employers present a few problems of their own. First, they don’t call back, and second, they demand computer applications demanding information that’s either benign and irrelevant or so intrusive that it would be easier to set out and form a corporation of my own that does the same thing. Honestly, intrusive applications should be illegal.

It never takes me very long to work my way around a job fair. I usually get in and out in 20 minutes, tops, and that’s making time to talk to any businesses I haven’t heard of. I’ll grab business cards if I’m interested, but am otherwise provided with nothing but enough useless paperwork to make me hunch over. If the fair is in downtown Buffalo or by Walden Galleria, I’ll take some time to walk around a little, but otherwise my routine is to hand out resumes, take cards, and go home to fill out the applications I can return myself and wait for the agencies to call back. I’ve never known anyone who was hired through a job fair, although I have managed to score a few interviews.

Job fairs are going through motions, in and out with no noticeable benefit to potential employees. I do walk in with a positive outlook and a hopeful attitude – my catch phrase at job fairs has become “today’s your lucky day!” But in the end, I know I’m going to crawl back to Careerbuilder and the individual websites of places I’m interested in, and keep in touch with temp agencies. The difference is, I’ll have a few new keychains and some decent candy.

At least the experience is motivation to apply myself in whatever school I wind up in. My aunt and uncle have suggested trucking, and although it isn’t my first choice, it doesn’t look like a bad idea.

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About Nicholas Croston

I like to think. A lot. I like to question, challenge, and totally shock and unnerve people. I am a contrarian - whatever you stand for, I'm against.

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