The fair was held in the same building as the weekend flea market, but it was only half full. The cavernous unused space in the back, which led to the cafeteria, restrooms and drinking fountain, was a lonesome, windswept pocket of sadness.
Up front, where the booths were located, wasn't much better. The smiles appeared strained. Some of the booths just had pamphlets, no people. Others looked abandoned.
The job categories more or less broke down like this:
• Exciting home business opportunities selling oils, unguents and other health care/beauty products. Oh, and there was one travel agency-type business offering "sell vacations, go on vacations!" gigs. The lone qualification? You have to have a face.
• Insurance, financial services and other commission jobs that, unlike the exciting home business opportunities, require you to go somewhere you don't want to be every day. With no guarantee of a paycheck. At least at home you don't have to wear pants.
• Departments of correction. Sir, I'm going to need you to step away from the booth, please.
I was there about a half-hour, just enough time to chat with a few people, hand out some business cards and resumes (printed waaaaay too many), get complimented on my shoes and realize I was more or less wasting my time. I did get a couple of potential leads on freelance work, but that was about it.
For all that, I shaved, showered and put on a suit. It took me longer to get ready. I'm still wearing the suit, by the way. As much as I prefer pajamas, I just can't take it off yet. Not until I get food on it.
I get the feeling I wasn't the only one at the career fair who felt the depressing weight of it all. More than a few people leaving the building were shuffling their feet, avoiding eye contact and generally looking beat down and distraught.
But at least we got free bags to carry home all that literature about our exciting futures. Outside, it's America.