It was a hot morning in midtown Manhattan and the job fair didn’t start till 11 a.m., but at 10:35 there was already about three-quarters of a city block of people lined up. Should have gotten there earlier. I had to hit Staples to print my resumes first– my printer cartridges finally ran out of ink and I haven’t gotten new ones yet. (It’s first on my to-do list for tonight. Well, at least in the top three to-do’s.)
The online list of companies attending the job fair was not promising. From what I could see, the majority of positions were in sales. Nothing against sales, but I’m not a salesperson and I don’t want to start being one.
My place in line happened to be right by the entrance of a church that seemed to double as a mission — something I might need if I don’t find a job soon. Lol, as they say. People kept pushing through to either enter the church or look at some flea market goods for sale on a table there. Beyond that minor annoyance, I had too many things in my bag. It had been chilly and cloudy before I left Queens, but now I was lugging a no-longer-needed jacket and umbrella.
I asked myself if I should network or just pop on my headphones and listen to some jazz to try to get mellow. I did a little of both; I played some Miles Davis and I also talked to some of the people in front of me.
I refrained from getting into it with the lady behind me who kept moving up and touching me, or poking me with the paperback book she was reading. I finally, quite calmly, asked, “Could you give me a little more room?” I do have a thing about space. I know I need to work on it.
It was an hour and a half before I got inside the conference room. I scanned the room and immediately ruled out the military recruiters and the companies that want people to go out to other people’s houses and do sales parties. I also avoided the franchise opportunities.
I decided to approach the colleges first, since they seemed to have the best possibility of needing an editor, a writer or maybe an administrative assistant. However, the colleges were only recruiting students; they weren’t hiring. I couldn’t even make a pitch or leave my resume — they wouldn’t take it. I felt a little angry at this. Yes, some people might need to go back to school to increase their marketability, but here is a roomful of desperate people looking for work, not another expense.
The longest line in the room was for Whole Foods, which was hiring cashiers and other store positions. I’ll reserve Whole Foods for when I am really desperate — I doubt they pay enough. The U.S. Open was hiring temp workers for the event in August, which I will consider because it might be fun and I’ll get to see some tennis. But I’ll do this only if it pays more than unemployment.
Otherwise, most of the companies were only hiring salespeople. I went to every table (except the above-mentioned ones that I avoided) to check if they were hiring for anything else and they all said no.
So I was done after half an hour. There was no interviewing, and the only networking I did was with other out-of-work people. In the ladies’ room I talked to a woman who’d been out of work for 16 months after the company she’d worked at for 20 years laid her off. She looked as disheartened as I felt. We wished each other luck, I changed my “interview” shoes for flip flops and left.
It was 12:35. Outside, the line was still there, stretching up 57th, almost the entire block between 9th and 10th avenues. It continued around the corner three-fourths of the way to 56th Street. Everyone was in suits and dresses, carrying resumes and a little bit of hope. I looked at them and wanted to cry.