Job Searching: Employment Agencies and Job Fairs

By | October 17, 2008

Yesterday morning I went in to an employment agency that has had job openings listed. They say that they have interviews every weekday morning at 9:00 a.m. I had wanted and intended to go in previously, but have a hard time getting up and being ready that early. Since they supposedly had interviews for these openings everyday, I figured there would probably just be a person or two on any particular day. I found the place and went in. The receptionist gave me a stack of paperwork to fill out then directed me to the application room. I was a bit startled when I entered to find a dozen people in a small room. I quickly began to feel like we were just being herded through like cattle. A person came in and gave orders, er- I mean directions. “Fill everything out with blue pen,” was one rule I thought a bit odd, though I could see it helping them when looking over so many papers. Also, they give you a time you have to call them back, and if you don’t, you’re disqualified for a year! I can kind of understand that though too.

However, the whole thing made me feel like if I looked the wrong way or crossed a t wrong, I’d be thrown out. It felt kind of humiliating like I wasn’t a person, but just some object or commodity to be processed. Another thing, I found out that they count pre-arranged days off as absences, and you can apparently only have two per month. Normally that shouldn’t be a problem, but what if I need three days off one month for some reason? It took nearly two hours two fill out the paperwork, do a short interview, and a quick test on the computer. They wanted me to do some more computer tests, but I was concerned about how long they would take. It ended up that I had to go back in today to take them, and it ended up being about 45 minutes. I would have had time, but I wasn’t sure how things were going to go at my next stop.

I had heard about a major job fair at the state fair grounds, at which there were supposed to be 80 companies represented. I figured it would be worth checking out, though I didn’t have too big of expectations. As it turns out, there were probably only a dozen or so companies actually hiring directly. One seemed kind of like a pyramid deal, with reselling cell time. Beyond them were perhaps a half dozen employment agencies, and then a couple of dozen schools trying to get people to sign up for classes. That annoys me. The whole idea of a job fair is that people need money and need work in order to get it. Having schools advertising there just makes it seem like people are being tricked into coming thinking there are job opportunities, only to have people trying to sell them something. Yeah, I know that having schooling can help with a job, though it doesn’t necessarily do so, but the point is that in the end schools don’t give a rip whether you’re actually working or not, so long as they get your money.

I did pass out my resume to a few people. One really stood out. Emily works for a staffing firm, and when I spoke to her, she seemed interested in me and quite personable. It really stood in contrast to my experience in the morning. Whereas that had made me question whether or not I really wanted to work for the company, after talking to Emily I felt that I was most interested in possibly working for her and her company out of all the staffing firms I’d talked to.

I talked to a handful of other companies. Most said they didn’t really have any openings along my lines of work. The worst question everyone would ask is “What kind of work are you looking for?” I didn’t have a great response—I usually said something about there being a number of things I could do. At one employment agency’s booth, when they asked further I told them about being an audio engineer. The engineering recruiter grimaced and said, “Yeah, I don’t see a lot of that.”

This all got me to thinking though, it seems my skills in general are more toward the technical and mental side of things. There are a lot of people out there, such as my dad, who are mechanically inclined. They’re good at opening things up, fixing things, building things, construction, automotive work, etc. That’s not me. I’m good at problem solving, working with computers and electronics, and programming. I believe that’s why certain jobs in the past haven’t suited me. For instance, while I couldn’t point to anything particularly bad about the job, working in a warehouse was about my least favorite job ever. I wonder if it was because it was so routine and required no thought or creativity. There wasn’t any way to do the job differently or better, I just picked orders all day long.

At another company, the guy looked at my resume and didn’t look impressed. He told me that I had too many items (jobs) listed, and that would be a problem for about everyone. I understand why he says that, and I appreciate the feed back. I can see where that would be an issue if the company is looking for someone long term. I was thinking though, “Sorry my employment history isn’t nice and neat like yours,” and thinking about how blue collar work, which is pretty much where I’ve been at, is inherently unstable. The other thing I thought is that what I was showing him and others is really my secondary resume. My primary resume is focused on audio engineering and production. However I don’t believe that will help me to get a general type job for the time being. Recruiters would look at that and might think it looks impressive, yet they wouldn’t know what to make of it beyond, “Well don’t have any need for a person with your skills.”

On a different note, I found it interesting that there were everyone from a few people dressed in suits, to many people who were wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. I mean, I can understand not overdressing, but really, being that casual when trying to find a job? I wonder if these people even own any nicer clothes. I also noticed that it seems most of the work available at job fairs like this is blue collar and bottom of the barrel kind of stuff: labor, customer service, restaurant work, call center, maybe some sales, etc.—basically all stuff that isn’t a good fit for me. I think it’s fairly likely that I can get some work through one of the employment agencies I talked to, most likely driving. That seems to be one job that there’s some demand for that I’m also o.k. with doing. So, that’s a summary of one day of job searching with me.

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