Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Career Showcase Job Fair - Where Can I Get the Kool Aid?

It was, truly, a job fair unlike any I'd been to before. I was astonished by the quality and diversity of the jobs being offered. In fact, I'd never actually received one offer at a job fair before; let alone three. My head was spinning from the decisions I needed to make -- which offer to accept?

The alarm went off, awaking me from my slumber. The job fair was actually several hours away. Nevertheless, I felt encouraged.

That would be short-lived.

The Career Showcase Job Fair promised an extensive collection of companies and positions. Apparently, most of the companies planning to be there with the non-financial sales positions bailed. In the spirit of Bill Simmons, here's the running diary of the event:

4:55pm: I walk in to the Huntington Hilton's Grand Ballroom. There are a great number of people here; but not as many as I would expect - I'd recently read stories of job fairs that had to close down early because two to three times as many attendees showed up. Here, the room is nearly half-full. I'm optimistic that this may turn out to be okay...I do end up sitting near an ex-colleague and we commisserate about the state of the job market.

5:00pm: Up first is the emcee for the evening - Henry Lesher...He's a career coach, who commits the fatal flaw of telling us that he's being paid to be there. Immediately, an awful lot of his credibility flies out the window. He explains that it's not that the best people get the best jobs, but "the people who appear to be best get the jobs."

5:10pm: Henry begins introducing the companies. This is a different kind of job fair. Rather than just letting me pop in and view the companies and determining there's nothing there for me, I have to listen to 2-4 minute 'commercials' from each company first.

The first to speak is Kim from Sleepys. She has inside sales professional positions available. She begins by asking "who has heard of Sleepys?" - the entire room raises their hands. She then talks about how the company is growing, and how her top salespeople made in excess of $100k last year. This will prove to be an effective template for the rest of the evening.

5:14pm: Dan from David Lerner, the first of the financial companies. They specialize in NOT JUST stocks, but also real estate and municipal bonds. In addition, even if you're not looking for an investment counselor position, they'll be happy to have you stop by their booth so they can assist you with your investment needs. They're good guys.

5:19pm: Chris from Carr Business Systems. I know this company, as their building is right next door to where I used to work. I would definitely work for them, and - potentially - they could use someone like me. Ah, they're only recruiting for outside sales representatives. I'm beginning to see a trend.

5:23pm: Alfredo from New York Life. I actually have a resume pending with this company for an employee communications associate. But, then I realize, Alfredo is not in the HR department; he's a partner. He is recruiting for - say it with me - sales positions. The company has been in business for 164 years and his top salespeople made $200k-plus, last year. Oh, and it helps if you're billingual.

5:27pm: Dan from Sears is next. He's quick and to the point. He also pulls the "Who has heard of Sears" trick - that is not even remotely effective this time. He's looking for outside sales. What are the odds? Irrelevant, anyway, as I haven't shopped at Sears since their service person threatened my wife in our backyard. Even more embarrasing for Sears -- I sent a letter outlining my displeasure with their service (which was horrible even without the physical threat; but, simply unforgiveable afterwards), and received no response. Clearly, not a choice organization.

5:31pm: Prudential is up next. They've been in business for 130 years, and his top salespeople made $1 million plus last year (the job fair has taken on all the atmosphere of a locker room, where each company is trying to figure out who is 'bigger.') This gentleman (didn't catch the name) - who, of course, is recruiting for financial services and financial sales - explains that "you're all salespeople, even if you're not in sales...your resume is your print ad; your interview is your commercial; and the product you're selling, is you!" He leans back smiling, satisfied with himself and his analogy. I choke back the vomit.

5:35pm: Tom, from US Remodels steps up next. He's a nice change from the suit-clad presenters so far. He explains that he works for Home Depot, and they handle garage organization, closet organization, etc. I'm encouraged that this will be a position other than sales (even though it won't be something I'm interested in); but no....he's looking for in-home sales representatives. Yawn.

5:39pm: John from Accent Advisors steps up - and doesn't seem to want to step down. He goes on, and on, and on, and on, and on. I lean to my friend next to me, and tell him the job fair needs to get their hands on the orchestra used by the Academy Awards. It's even worse, because he's recruiting financial services/financial advisors. I feel almost badly for these people, having to recruit for the same positions as ALL the companies prior to them. But, then, I remember I'm stuck there, and I feel worse for me.

5:47pm: Allison from Cablevision takes the microphone next. Interestingly, before and after each speaker spoke, there was applause from the audience. When Cablevision got up there, the welcoming applause was minimal. She, smartly, doesn't ask "who has Cablevision?" She's the first person not recruiting for sales -- instead, she's looking for call center customer service representatives (making the princely sum of $13 an hour). I look around the room -- easily, 95 percent of the attendees are 38 years of age or older. I wonder - do these job fair recruiters ever take the time to know their audience?

5:51pm: Dan (another one) from First Investors is recruiting for financial representatives and other professionals who "don't want to settle for a mediocre salary." He then explains his definition of a mediocre salary (translation, anything less than $100k). The world is a strange place.

5:55pm: Tina from PFP speaks next - she *knows* people don't know her company...she's looking for insurance sales representatives -- they work with credit unions in branches...but, it's still sales. So much so, that, after Tina talks, Henry (the emcee) explains that people visiting this job fair need to keep their minds open about the types of positions being offered at the fair.

5:59pm: Cambridge/Who's Who is up next, and Carolyn talks about the hours ("we work 9 to 5:30, Monday to Friday, with no weekends or evenings, so - if you want that, we can't help you" she says, attempting comedy) There's an outside chance this company could work for me - after all, it's writing, right? No....account directors (aka sales). We're getting down to the last few companies -- will anything make me not feel like I just blew nearly two hours of my life?

6:02pm: Jerry at 2020 Companies also explains that he knows no one knows his company - he handles Verizon direct sales. He starts his speech by stating, explicitly, "I have a lot of energy." His position is even less appealing than anyone else's -- 100 percent commission. If only I were a successful salesperson (what happened to the lengthy list of positions that would be at this fair?)

6:05pm: Chris at Northwestern Mutual can't even talk with a straight face. He's looking for financial professionals...but he doesn't want to keep people from getting into the exhibit hall ("since I know you all want your free pencils." - yeah, that's exactly the reason I'm here...)

6:10pm: Bill, representing AFLAC, gets up with a witty saying, "If you think we just do insurance, you don't know quack about AFLAC." I try to come up with three reasons why any of these people have jobs and I'm still unemployed. I fail.

With that, the 'corporate theatre' ends, and we move out to head to the exhibit hall. In a touching show of sympathy, we're led in curved lines...much like cows to a slaughterhouse, so we can't see the horror befalling those before us. I wish my friend luck (as he's off to talk with Carr), and I find two other members of my jobseeking group. We share our collective misery before heading off.

Besides the length of time invested, which was heartbreaking; my biggest regret was actually being forced to give one of my resumes to the organizers when I walked in. I only had good copies with me -- that was some nice paper, wasted.


Matt said...

I wonder if you could bill the organizers of this "job fair" for the sheet of resume paper you gave them.

Steven Bodnar said...

Thanks for posting I was about to go to one of these, saved me time.

Chris Palermo said...

Wow - Steven ... it's been a long time since I've blogged here.

Are you on LinkedIn? That's where I do most/all of my professional writing now.

Felicia Laughin-Ajala said...

Thank you for your post, not the type of job fair I would want to attend...

LovingHR said...

Thank you so much for enlightening me! I can't take another bogus attempt to subtract precious years from my life. I'm sorry they wasted your time and I hope you are employed now.

Chris Palermo said...

Hi LovingHR ...

Well, I was, then I was back to unemployed; then employed again; and now unemployed again.

I don't really blog here anymore, though -- I do my writing on the LinkedIn platform. If you're there; reach out and connect with me :) (

Melissa said...

Oh my goodness! I was just about to sign up for the same exact career fair in Huntington but now I think I'll just stay home and continue to work the internet postings. Thank you so much for this honest review. You just saved me time, mileage and gas (which is like gold to the unemployed on Long Island).

Unknown said...

I wish I had read this before attending last nights debacle. It was a red flag to me that they don't let you know ahead of time who the employers are, but I went anyway. In New Jersey which is brimming with Pharma companies, not a single Pharma rep. It quickly became apparent that in addition to the Career Coach emcee (who will gladly give you his business card afterwards), a good portion of the companies were merely there to actually sell you something rather than hire. Such a sham.

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