June 3rd, 1999

Work Fair

by Ben Maycock • in School
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Work FairA job search can often be demoralizing, at best. So it was in a state of anxiety that I learned of a Work Fair being held across the harbour in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. A notice of the impending event arrived with my once embarrassing, now anticipated EI cheque.

“You are Invited to Attend
World of Work

A Wide Variety of Companies Will Be Recruiting On-Site
Free Admission
BRING YOUR RESUME”

At first excited at the possibility that only a few thousand local EI beneficiaries had been given this secret opportunity, I was quickly brought back down to earth after being barraged by work fair advertisements from as many media as could saturate the city. Still, it was a mouth-watering proposition — an ARENA full of jobs. It would be a challenge to field so many job offers.

I must admit that, as the day approached, my job-seeking pace slowed and my imagination ran wild. A work FAIR. There would be rides, and games, the economic roller coaster, the ferris wheel of fortune, and the humble pie-eating contest.

The day arrived and, with a briefcase full of resumés I set off. I decided to be a little later than the noon-hour start, to avoid the lineup that I was sure would resemble those for The Phantom Menace in their length and rowdiness. As it turned out there were few, if any, people outside the arena; but seeing the banners hung in proclamation, I entered.

A little nervous, I stopped and surveyed the action below me on the arena floor. Sure enough, there were lots of booths and lots of possibilities ahead of me. Surprisingly, there were not that many people there, and fewer still looking as professional as myself. Studying the flow of traffic, I gauged the circuit before launching myself into the shuffling stream.

The first booth was for a private computer college. As was the second. And the third. Then a business college. And another. The provincial government had a couple of booths that looked promising. At one I was told about the existence of the web site I had been fruitlessly plumbing for weeks, and at the other they had great bound volumes full of lists of what you should do if your dream career was X… I quickly found my job aspiration and the accompanying to-do list, one which eerily resembled my journey to this work fair.

The local papers each had a separate booth, both touting their slim-line classified sections. There was a booth for those who wanted to fulfill their dreams by selling Tupperware. It seemed to be quite popular, with a permanent crowd straining to hear the representative speak. It did, in fact, turn out to be one of the more interesting booths to look at. (Have you seen what they are up to with service platters?).

Turning into the next aisle I was met by more representatives of computer and business colleges. Suspicious, I checked my program to dispel doubts that there was one college monopolizing the space with several booths. Apparently there is a Computer College, a CompuCollege, and a College of Computing. As there is a Business College, a BusiCollege and a School of Business. Everywhere I turned there were people eager to lead me down the right path — for a fee.

The Army wanted to recruit me, the Homeopaths wanted to relieve my stress, and Mary Kay wanted to make me up. I considered combining all three for a relaxing, quickie discharge complete with military pension.

The only booth that held any moral credibility at the fair, though it seemed quite out of place, was for The Metro Food Bank. At the time I assumed they were looking for volunteers and donations but, looking back, it seems more than likely they were just taking advance orders for potential future users, preemptively taking note of out any allergy and dietary requests.

I did eventually find one booth that advertised an actual position of employment. Luckily, the young woman hosting it was unoccupied and, seizing up what little spirit I had left, I approached, trying to engage her in conversation about the opportunity. It soon became apparent that she was only looking after the booth for someone else, and, dull-eyed, she took my resumé from me and placed it in amid a sizable pile.

As I stumbled out blinking into the afternoon sun, I passed a young man heading in. He managed to smile a ‘Hello’ to me while under the strain of the resumés he held under his arm. I strained in turn, even though my briefcase was one resumé lighter.

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