Somehow I pictured the Hiring Our Heroes job fair for military spouses in Washington DC last week as the career equivalent of speed dating. I imagined employers seated at little tables with a candle and a flower. I imagined military spouse job seekers in little black suits going from table to table on mini-interviews. I imagined someone reading my resume and realizing I was The One.
Clearly, my imagination was way out of control.Because the reality was that the job fair -- one of 20 to be held for military spouses this year alone-- was a whole lot more like clubbing than focused speed dating. The organizers had done an awesome job of setting up the space with employers at booths and mini-classrooms around the edges and child care clearly marked and staffed with workers in bright gold t-shirts.
But to the uninitiated, the space was as crowded and overwhelming as a club can be. Even though staff members were poised right at the entrance to help navigate the event, it took me a little while to figure out what I was doing. I scanned tables. I had someone look at my resume. I stood in line and chatted with the other participants as the recruiter from SAIC took our resumes and placed them facedown on a table with a stack of other resumes.
"I swear I left there feeling old and tired and unemployable and that no one would ever want me!" I exclaimed to my girlfriend the next day.
"So it was exactly like you going to a club," she said dryly.
"Without the leather miniskirt," I said.
"So why go?" My friend asked. "I was going to go to the one in San Diego but I'm not that good at talking to strangers anyway and I don't know how it would help me. So why go?"
Great question. I say you go for the same reasons you might choose to go to a club even though the chance of meeting your true love there is kinda low. You go because of everything else that is available in the space. Just like in a club you can find friends and music and dancing and bright lights and drinks with tiny umbrellas, at a job fair you find all kinds of worthwhile extras. The lady who looked at my resume gave me tips that made me feel a lot better when I sent it out to other employers the next day. I found a new program that helps military spouse entrepreneurs develop a business plan for free which might really work for me. I signed up for the Military Spouse Business Association because those ladies are really rooting for military spouses.
Granted, I did not find my One True Job at that job fair. But some people did. Some of us left that job fair the way some people leave a club -- with The One. The rest of us left with a couple of phone numbers, a website, a scrap of hope left in resume-form. When you are walking away from a job fair -- when you are tired and your feet hurt and you are discouraged--that doesn't seem like a lot to get a job on. But lots of the time, it is.
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Jacey Eckhart is Military.com’s Director of Spouse and Family Programs. Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan??
Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times. Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom.
When I was little, I wanted to own an inn like the one in the movie Holiday Inn. It would be a magical place where you only had to work holidays and an overnight stay came with a gourmet meal and a floorshow featuring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Then I grew up. I never ... Continue Reading