By WILL E. SANDERS
Amid a sea of shattered dreams, I attended my first-ever job fair last week with my best friend, Dave, and wife, Christine. Like any classy job fair, the event was held on a basketball court at a nearby college, which I found funny.
It made me want to go outside, round up a few college kids and say, “The degrees you’re paying for here will be worthless by the time you graduate. Save yourself a lot of time, money and effort and go inside and talk to the guy from Lowe’s. You’ll be mixing paint at minimum wage in no time flat.”
Inside the arena the atmosphere seemed almost alien to me, like I had entered the Mos Eisley Cantina from “Star Wars.” The atmosphere reeked of mistaken optimism, false bravado, embellished resumes and the overwhelming aroma of Stetson; lots and lots of Stetson.
A cornucopia of colorful ties, shoddy toupees, out-dated suits, high heels, higher skirts and even higher hopes stretched to infinity and beyond. The alpha male mad men, their suitcases (and blundering personalities) well in hand, puffed out their already-rotund chests like wild business baboons. Christine and Dave were dressed to the nines and unlike me, there were actually there hoping to land a job. A flier for the job fair stated business attire was required, and actually made a point of mentioning, “Please no sweat suits.” I want to meet the guy or gal who wears sweat pants to a job fair and thinks it’s a good idea. Such a suicidal endeavor is the business world’s equivalent of Darwinism.
My attendance at the job fair was one of support for my two best friends. I had no intention of either handing my resume to anyone or not eating three doughnuts and enjoying all-you-can-drink coffee. I actually used a paid personal day from my job to attend. Pretty sure that qualifies as a perverted form of irony.
I thought it would be a good contrast if I intentionally dressed down. That way by comparison I would make both Christine and Dave appear even better than they were on a first impression. Of course in recollection it could have only served to foil their attempts at gainful employment, but at least I wasn’t wearing sweats.
In preparation for the job fair I made a list of job fair tips that I recited to my captivate audience to lift their spirits as we meandered from booth to booth, aimlessly searching for the last seven jobs in America.
If someone hands you a name tag, do not rip it up in front of them. When speaking to a prospective employer remember to look them square in the eyes and to call them by their correct name. It is not unreasonable to light up a cigarette in the middle of their pitch.
“And never forget that boldness is key,” I reminded them. “Walk right up to them, ask what their highest-paying job is and tell them, ‘All right, I’ll take it, but I don’t work Fridays!’”
We all had problems with the human resource grunts that attended the event on their company’s behalf. It seemed like many were less concerned with hiring a soul and more concerned about doling out shameless merchandise like pens, pads of papers and more beer koozies than I knew existed. Really, beer koozies at a job fair? As if half of the crowd didn’t already feel like unemployed alcoholics.
Since none of us had been to a job fair before, our preconceived notion that they actually accepted resumes (that we spent all week painstakingly preparing) was incorrect. Nobody was accepting resumes. How hard is it to take a piece of paper from a stranger and toss it in the trash when they turn their back? There was a five-story mezzanine above the main floor that I briefly considered flinging myself off of out of frustration, but I digress. Instead every employer directed us to visit their respective websites to fill out an online application, which was a waste of time.
I could have done that from home, I told many of them.
In my sweat pants no less.