LIVE: From the Career Fair

Below is the culmination of live posts from a day job hunting at the Chicago Tribune Career Fair at Soldier Field. Most recent posts are on top. 


All told, I gave out four of the ten resumes I brought with me. I'm used to only imagining my competition as I write out yet another cover letter. Actually seeing them in person made me wonder - how can anyone hope to stand out from the crowd? Donald Hamilton, who was there representing a company called Energy Marketing (which is helping AT&T find good salespeople to sell U-Verse), said all it takes is a person "with a good personality and a smile on their face." Somehow, I think if it were that easy, there wouldn't be quite so many people at the Career Fair.

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Just had an interesting conversation with two job seekers - Taylor, a 2008 graduate with a biology degree; and Dominique, who has been working a few temps job since December but hasn't been able to find anything steady with health insurance.

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The line to get in to the technology booths. 

Taylor - a licensed pharmacy technician, certified in CPR - has been looking for a real job since she graduated from a college in New Orleans and said there are highs and lows. She estimated that she has applied to approximately 1,000 jobs in the past year, resulting in six or seven interviews. At this point, she said she gets excited just to have a response from an employer, even if the response is no. 

She considered the career fair her "outing," but said she gets frustrated at the companies that simply give the company line and then tell her to go online to check the openings.

"I put on heels and stood in line so you could tell me to go home and get on the computer?" she said. "I could have done that in my yoga pants and socks."

She opined that career fairs are going the way of the dodo bird. 

Dominique, who has a bachelor's degree in English and a resume that has "variety," said this career fair is better than some she's been to in the past. Good networking opportunities, and most of the companies she spoke with were interviewing imminently. Not enough people take the first impression seriously enough she said. She already had an interview scheduled with one of the companies at the career fair, she said, and arrived hoping to meet the person who would be interviewing her in advance.

"I met one of his coworkers," she said. "So, hopefully they'll go back and tell him that they met me."

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Found at the Career Fair


Name: Jay Erickson 
Hometown: Elgin

Jay has seven years experience in business to business sales. He was laid of from his job selling floor coverings for Shaw Industries about a month ago, is personable, hardworking, willing to relocate and won the 2008 Dealers Choice Award for Customer Satisfaction in his division. 

He says business has diminished. "Nobody wants this to happen. But now it's on to another opportunity." 

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I'm here, and the lines are enough to terrify even the bravest of job seekers. For line-forming purposes, they divide us into three categories: Engineering, Technology & Security Clearance; Nursing Allied Health & Life Sciences; Professional/General. 

The "general" line is literally a couple of hundred people deep. We're given blue wrist bracelets. I joke to the man next to me that perhaps the color has some hidden meaning like, "Don't hire: too perky with a few stray cat hairs on her skirt." 

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The 146 bus from downtown to Soldier Field is filled with men and women in business suits, clutching briefcases, souped up folders stuffed with resumes and anxiously glancing around at the competition. The woman next to me on the bus tells me she has 20+ years in the IT business. She was laid off two years ago and said already so much has changed in her industry that she feels like she's playing catch up. They survived for a while on her husband's salary, she said, but he's in an industry tied to new construction and the money quickly died down to a trickle. Two men in suits across from us are listening in, nodding occassionally in unison.

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Getting ready to arrive fashionably late to the Chicago Tribune's Career Fair  at Soldier Field. I'll be live blogging and tweeting today, red carpet style. (Except that if I can't find an Internet connection, I'll have to wander off to a coffee shop at intervals and order the cheapest thing on the menu so that I don't get kicked out as a vagrant).

I have 10 copies of my resume and am wearing what-they-call a skirt. I put an extra scoop of coffee grounds in the filter, saved my scarf from a dip in my cereal and am ready to work it for all I've got.

See you on the other side...

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