Saturday, October 24, 2009

Encounters with People I Met at the Illinois (State-wide, not the College) Alumni Job Fair

NOTE: some of these conversations have been had at other career fairs from senior year in college, the recruiting fair at my college, and some are flat-out imagined (those are noted with a *). I will go the way of James Frey and say "I stuck to the spirit of the events."

With the Girl Looking for the "Pavilion,"
Where all my Uni's Grads were told, the Fair Was

Hey, do you know where we're supposed to be? No, I thought somewhere else. Do they know where we're supposed to go? This building on the other side of campus. Oh. Wanna split a cab? I don't have any cash. Me neither. Let's walk in the cold mist. Ok. I'm lost. So, are you working? Yeah, I'm a secretary at a gym. How's that? Awful. It's so boring. I don't even think in my day-to-day. I spend more time on Facebook that directing sweaty people to the right machine. I am familiar with this feeling. Yeah. Being underemployed isn't a lot of fun. I'm really glad someone else feels that way! I feel like we should be like grateful or something for the chances that we have, and that we are like supposed to be this way after college, but dang it! Totally. I went to college, studied hard, and now, I mean, I can't find anything. What field are you in? Journalism. Oh--oh--ummmmm...
Some people are in worse positions than I, but I'm glad to have an encounter with someone who is in the same position, just so I can confirm what everyone is telling me, that this is a totally normal way to feel.

*With the (not unattractive) Representative of the Marines Right at the Entrance of the Fair
Hey, how's it going? Oh, you know. It's freezing outside. Do you have any interest in a job in the legal field? Actually, yeah. I want to go to law school. Oh? What if I told you that we could pay for you to go to law school? Really...I'd think there was a catch. No catch. We sponsor people through law schools all the time, and we are a great resume boost, and it's really just a great opportunity. You do have a degree, right? Yeah. Totally. I graduated with two majors. That's great, we're always looking for smart people. Ok, but--you know--I have a general aversion to...getting shot at. Well, you wouldn't really be doing that! We are more than just war makers! Really? Because I thought that was exactly what you were. All you'd have to do is go through basic training and then your rising through the ranks should be pretty quick, since-- Umm, errrrr, hang on. What? First of all, can you back up a bit. You're kind of in my personal bubble, and that combined with your excessive eye contact is kind of freaking me out. Oh, you'll get over that real quick once you're in basic tr-- Thanks! Bye!
Inevitably, you just try to avoid eye contact with the military booths, which are always set up in just the same way everywhere, the same booth design, same handouts, same two guys. There's one in his uniform (usually the less attractive) and then one in a smart, businessy looking number. Once in conversation, they're much more eager than you'd expect from someone recruiting you to be part of "this man's army." There's never mention of war, of deployments, but the existence of these things, coupled with them being there, amongst throngs of unemployed, is really unnerving. I can't really articulate why except that the realization comes to me that "oh, yeah, people DO join the military more in times of recession, putting their lives on the line because they don't see many other choices." I have nothing against the military, but this tacit understanding that happens, coupled with what we read in the makes things awkward.

With Every Single Consulting Company There
Hi there, Kate _________. Hi. I'm Tom Smith. What interests you about Dynamic Consulting? Well, I did some research on the website, and I want to see if there is a place for someone with my talents, and [insert my normal pitch here]. That's great! This is a great firm. We're leaders in innovation and dynamic solutions. Oh? What exactly do you do? We come up with strategic decisions for fast moving, modern businesses. Right, but--like--what do YOU do specifically? I'm a planner. I work with my team. It's such a great experience! Ok. And what do you think makes your firm different from Consulting Dynamics over there? We're a firm that is dedicated to delivering a dynamic product to our clients. We really value diversity of workload and innovation. Ok. So what then is your understanding of what they do? They deliver less workable products. See, we focus on real world solutions for innovative markets!
I come out of these conversations usually with almost no understanding of what exactly these guys do (aside from specializing in innovation). You're actually better off using wikipedia to get it explained for you, but the face time is more important than information-finding. At this point, I actually do know what they do, and who does what, but that's not really the point of this conversation, since it ends with, "Great! Can I have your resume?"

With a Field I'm Clearly Not Qualified For
So what did you study? German and PoliSci, but-- Oooh. This job is really mostly for med school grads. Oh. [AWKWARD MOMENT] So, I'll just keep an eye on the website. Yeah, completely. Things are always opening up on there, and you can see what would best suit your qualifications. Great. Thanks.
And you walk away a little embarrassed that the name "InnovatiCorp" didn't tip you off that they weren't hiring your type. But you can't just run away, since that would be...I don't know actually why I don't just run away making that "woop woop woop" noise that Curly from 3 Stooges makes.

With a Booth That Looked Half Decent
So, what do you do? Oh, I have a great job with Diverse Solutions LLP! I get to X, Y, Z. Oh, that's really interesting. Wow, that sounds like just what I want to do with my career! Great! So, what positions are open? Well, we're actually not hiring at this time. Oh. But we'd be more than happy to take your resume and keep it on file! Ok, cool. Thanks.
If you don't have anything open, DON'T COME TO THE FREAKIN CAREER FAIR! The point of the whole thing is to GET A JOB, and if you don't have any jobs, then--GAH! I do not feel bad AT ALL taking more of their swag than absolutely polite (I have so many corporate frisbees and pens and stress balls from stands like these).

With the Rep of a Rather Famous Children's Toy Company
Wow, Company X. What are you hiring for? Ummm...we have some positions open. Like what? Tester? Haha. Hehe. No. Oh. Here's our flyer. Great, thanks. Are you interested in any of these? Well, they're all in engineering, so I'm not really--I didn't really study... Ok. You want a candy bar? Sure! Thanks!
Ok, so she didn't really know what she was doing there. I was there only out of curiosity, and it didn't really look like people were waiting in line to talk to her,'s Company X! Makers of such great and well known products as the Rolling Doo-Dad and the Thing-a-ma-Gig! Still, kind of a weird feeling, but their stuff was definitely the best (maybe if the Marines gave out candy and respected personal space...I'm just saying).

With a Kindred Spirit in the Line to Talk to a Booth
(the lines were UNG-DLY long!)
So, this is what an economic recovery looks like? Man, look at all these older people. Yeah, some of them are over 60. I feel like we've failed them somehow. Yeah, they won't end up getting a job here. But at the same time, I don't have any experience, so it's awkward. Haha. Yeah. Describe this fair in one word. Depressing. I know, right! I thought I was the only one! Yeah, I haven't been jobless this long in a while. How long? Since June. Don't you just hate it? I can't stand it when people tell me to "enjoy the free time." No, that New York Times article where you can be FUNemployed! Arg. I'm not funemployed. I'm funderemployed. Awesome. No, it's really not. Well, it's my turn to talk to them. Remember, big smiles, eye contact, and good luck. I hate it when people say that too. Haha!
It sounds like we're having a bitter conversation, but it's really not. It's like Barbara Ehrenreich writes. Everyone is so positive all the time, but it's ok to be negative. Sometimes it can even be a help to air out those negative feelings, especially when it's with someone who knows where you're coming from, and you can laugh about it and realize that it's ok that it's not totally ok. There's no "at leasts" or "keep on truckin" because we do that anyway. We truck! You just sometimes need to acknowledge that it's not all yoga and low budget flowers, so big shout-out to my recession buddy!

With an Older Lady in Line at a Publishing Booth
So, you're looking at Books and Associates? Yeah, since I got laid off. I'm sorry. I was employed with them for 1o years, in the field for 30, and my husband wants to retire, but I told him that he can't. Well, you're established in the field, so that's going to help your chances. And then after this I have to go to a wake. Oh, jeez. I'm sorry. Yeah, it's for my cousin Mayble's friend, nice lady. Her son, he's such a mess. It's those drugs, you know...
This was the single most depressing conversation ever. I almost hopped right out of line, but I didn't want to be rude and run into the nearest Snuggie store for SOMETHING comforting. And then I realized we were in competition in a way for the jobs, and that added another dynamic to the whole thing. Like "I feel bad for you, but I'm goign to get up there and try to explain how I am a better choice than hard feelings." This is why I don't like big job fairs, because you have several moments like these, and they are just as bad as they look.

With the Publishing Booth
So, you were in Germany. Tell me about it. Sure, like my research? Yeah, I was a sociology major. Great! [insert research description here]. [Then this random lady in a suit comes up to us] --Hey! Kate ________? Can I steal you away for a second? Ok. I was actually looking at your resume on line yesterday, and I had been wanting to call you. Really? Yes. And I'll just give you my phone number here [writes phone number]. I'm putting together a team, and I was really impressed with your resume. So, I'll call you tomorrow morning--no--I'll call you in like an hour, just so you have my number on your cell, ok? I can't wait to talk to you! Ok!
So...THAT happened...and very quickly at that. I'm going to go to an interview in person, after acing the phone interview, and maybe I won't get the job. That's a real possibility, but at least something crazy and positive happened, so yay for that!

No comments: