The Job Fair is best observed from the outside, looking in. This I now know.
On Tuesday I took the bait, as advertised in the paper, paying $15 for four hours in the parking garage at Soldier's Field (usually reserved for the Bears). This, after my partner and I barely made it out of the house alive and without wardrobe malfunctions.
Wait. Rewind. I did manage to temporarily disable my laptop, after jarring the USB drive containing my resume in the port. Travis then proceeded to, distracted by my frantic running across the entire length of the apartment multiple times, accidentally drop his laptop, breaking the power adapter. Two hours past our estimated departure time, we leave. Stop at Best Buy. Find power adapter. Rejoice.
We arrive at the designated parking lot for the job fair. I pull up--now five cars have filled in behind me--only to discover neither of us have enough cash to cover the parking. (Wait--shouldn't a sponsored job fair have free parking? No, I guess not. Nothing's free. Shouldn't the garage take credit cards? Where's the ATM?) I then am forced to back out the car, disrupting about 12 other cars in their frantic attempts to parkwalkandinterview. Damn.
Finally, we make it inside the job fair. This is not your average booth display. This is a highly regulated, multi-tiered affair. Experienced health care or information technology professionals in search of their next health care or I.T. job are siphoned off to the upper-level or back room. The General/Professional pavilion remains ours for the taking.
With 10 resumes each in hand, Travis and I split up, headed for the shortest lines. Retail, insurance, managerial opportunities abound. I brave speaking to an insurance representative, an association forum organization rep. and, finally, a corporate-headquarter rep. Here, I take different approaches, trying out varying introductions. To the insurance person, I take the generic approach: "...I'm interested in what entry-level positions are typically available..." He directs me to the website, and I decide against launching into my humanities background. Nor do I bother imagining the editing possibilities for fear of a let-down. The other two fare similarly. I hand off only one resume, and I am referred (with possible editing leads) to their websites. I impress one person with news of my recent relocation from Montana. I then quickly make my way to the "door"...
The door is one of two possible openings in the large screens placed around the perimeter of the booth-laden section. It's hot and crowded, as hundred at any given time vie for a place in line at one of dozens of booths. I find myself hoarding a concession-stand bar stool, shuffling papers around in my bag to look busy and focused to no one in particular. We eventually both find the exit with a few job "tips" and vague "contacts", and a few less resumes.
I found the atmosphere and general experience more rewarding than any concrete notion of a job I might be hired for. This fair, of course, is more comfortable for someone who is able to initiate a memorable and meaningful conversation. I am not one of these people. I need to anonymity of an online job posting, and hours to obsess over a cover letter. Yes, the employment pages remind me that "no one, not ever, has gotten a job without 'knowing someone'." To my dismay, this might be true.
The search of a viable full time day job continues. Temp. agency opportunities look promising. In my daze from Tuesday, I wear the same pant suit to the agency interview. This time, wrinkles and all, I score a spot on the will-call list. Now I just wait (and call) and see.