A Job Fair and a Confidence Boost! Learning My Own Value as an Applicant.

Just returned from a job fair. It was a small one, but a good experience.

I navigated it quickly. Working sales has taught me a lot about people and how to assess a situation.

Being there reminded me that I’ve got a lot to offer, and that there are some wonderful opportunities out there in industries I hadn’t previously considered. It shows how much my confidence has grown, because at the last job fair I attended, I didn’t even consider applying to some of the biggest companies who were hiring for a variety of jobs.

Last time, I even talked to a recruiter at Caterpillar for at least 15 minutes. We had a great rapport. He encouraged me to apply and said that I might be surprised how my degree could be used in his company. He was the last person I talked to– and I waited to speak with him. But I’m not a scientific person, so I just figured, why bother? Afterward I had called my dad, who used to be president of a local hospital. Now he works real estate, but he’s always been a very professional man. It’s part of his character– he’s always dressed up, always treats everyone with fairness. Very conservative, his style is clean cut. Most of my life he was wearing a suit every day, now he’s more business casual.

My dad had told me to go back in and apply at Cat, to at least hand the guy my resume. But I didn’t.

This time, I’m proud. I applied at a couple of companies that are totally outside my usual comfort zone. I only brought 10 resumes, and I didn’t hand them all out. In the past, I was scurrying around, in a frenzy to talk to as many recruiters as possible. This time I was much more relaxed. I didn’t stay long at each table and I didn’t worry.

Instead I smiled, made eye contact, and shook hands with the recruiters. Asked what types of jobs they’re hiring for, and told them why I would be interested and how I could fit in there. Asked if I could leave a resume. Looked at their displays and read over some literature, took a copy of a flyer. Joked a bit. Exchanged names, thanked them for their time, shook their hand and went on my way.

The company I was most impressed with told me they’ll be giving me a call! Who knows? I learn fast and adapt well, I’ve done so many different types of work. I’m actually proud of that– I’m versatile.

I’m realizing I’ve got more skills than I’ve given myself for, and that the only thing standing between me and the future that I want is my own imagination. I’ve come a long way since last year. I’m much more open-minded. I deal with people well and represent myself in a professional, intelligent way.

I’m proud because before interacting with any of these recruiters, I surveyed their tables and decided first if the company is worth *my* time. If they have no materials or posters, I’m suspicious. I want to be told up-front what they do, and what my job would entail. Usually I like to observe a little bit first, then approach them. I don’t like people who are deceptive, and I especially don’t like companies who pull a bait-and-switch about the services they provide, your job description, the number of hours they’re hiring, or whether or not benefits are available. I want to see it listed in print– because that’s fair and honest. I want their marketing to be clear and accurate.

And I especially hate going to a table and talking to someone, only to be re-directed to the website or to be told they don’t take resumes. I invested time to print out my resume on quality resume paper. I’ve updated and edited it. I put myself together, dressed up, and made a point to talk to this person. What was the point of doing all that if this person will not make any effort to remember me, and I have essentially gained no advantage as an applicant by attending the job fair and personally connecting with their staff?

The recruiter manning the table tells you a lot about the company. Their attentiveness, how they’re dressed, their demeanor.

One company I certainly avoided stands out because their recruiter was openly checking me out. C’mon, at a job fair?

I definitely felt my age at that moment. Gone are the girlish days where I would have felt flattered and smiled back at him. I’m sure some other women would have wanted to capitalize on that and gone straight to his table– but not this one. There were other men the same age who conducted themselves appropriately. Who were looking to find applicants, not eye candy.

I wore a suit jacket with a nice shirt and a skirt, and heels. Nothing about my ensemble or my demeanor invited sexual attention. I was walking through the middle aisle, inspecting the prospects of these companies at their respective tables. And this guy is slouched down in his chair, looking at my legs.

I ruled out the companies with low pay, only part-time hours, outside sales, or based in industries toward which I have no interest or lack prerequisite qualifications. Ya gotta have standards and also be realistic. If it’s not an improvement on my current job or going to help me grow, I don’t have time for it.

It was a quick experience, and a confidence builder.

It felt great to put on something smart and meet new people, to learn about new opportunities and companies.

It was hosted by a community college. On my way out, I grabbed a student poetry anthology. I remember when I was a college student myself, excited to be in published in our campus literary magazine.

I still write poems, though I haven’t published in many years.

These days, security and money override artistic expression.

A part of me will always be an artist. But first, gotta pay bills.

It’s a process, and I’m making it happen at my own pace.

These days, I like to keep my best stories to myself.


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