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Kadner: Trying their best to impress, quickly

ChristinLyles RichtPark meets with representative from MicroTratechnology training employment company job fair  Tinley Park.  |  Phil Kadner~Sun-Times

Christina Lyles, of Richton Park, meets with a representative from MicroTrain, a technology training and employment company, at a job fair in Tinley Park. | Phil Kadner~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 18, 2013 7:26AM



There was a time when an unemployed person would wear out shoe leather looking for a job.

Today, the unemployed haunt the Internet, sending out resumes to people they likely never will see.

“You feel sometimes like your resumes just go into an abyss,” said Cindy Paradise, of Homewood.

“You long for an actual conversation with someone. A face-to-face meeting. It’s kind of defeating to be on the Internet because you don’t know if your resume is ever even being looked at.”

Paradise, an unemployed marketing research project director, was among more than 150 people at a job fair Wednesday at the Tinley Park Convention Center.

The good news is that the line of people waiting to get into the fair at 11 a.m. was pretty short compared to what lines were like at the height of the Great Recession.

“There was a time when we would have 250 to 300 people waiting for the doors to open,” said Ken Katschke, a host for National Careers Fairs, which produces these job fairs throughout the country.

When I asked if that implied the job market had improved, Katschke unconvincingly replied, “You hope so.”

The other possibility, of course, is that many of the long-term unemployed have given up.

There were about a dozen booths open at the event, but several of them seemed to be in the business of selling rather than buying.

For example, the MicroTrain booth was offering technology training classes, although there were hints that tech jobs might be available in the future.

A booth set up by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration seemed to attract a lot of interest, but job seekers quickly discovered there were few positions available at the agency.

“Right now, we’re primarily looking for translators in this area,” a DEA recruiter told me. “There is a supervisory position for fiscal reports open in Puerto Rico, and we are looking for an attorney in Virginia.”

Despite the limited offerings, the unemployed seem to relish the opportunity to meet with a government agency.

Carmine Briani, of Bolingbrook, an unemployed admissions advisor for an online college, was one of those folks.

“They don’t have anything for me right now,but said there might be something available come October or later in the fall,” Briani said. “They also turned me on to a website, USAjobs.com (the official government employment site) that posts federal job listings.”

Over and over again, people told me they came to the fair just to meet potential employers in the flesh.

Kendall LiPine, of New Lenox, was one of those.

“At least in the old days you could walk into an office or a store and talk to someone,” LiPine said.

“You could make your pitch for a job, look someone in the eye and try to sell yourself. At the very least, you would get a reaction.

“Now you can’t talk to anyone. You don’t even know if they’ve looked at your resume. If you call, they put you on hold or say they’ll get back to you, but they rarely do.”

Christine Lyles, of Richton Park, has a background in IT and felt she got a lead on a job at WLS radio, one of the co-sponsors of the job fair.

She stood in line at the MicroTrain table with a lot of other people but feared it was “more about selling training classes than offering jobs.”

“It really seems right now that it is all about who you know,” Lyles said. “The people who seem to get jobs are those who are referred by people who know the people doing the hiring or who know people at the companies that are hiring.”

Like many of the job seekers attending Wednesday, Lyles has a college degree.

Many of the unemployed came dressed to impress, with men in business suits and ties, women in skirts and high heels.

I mentioned the quality of the attire to Katschke, the host of the fair.

“We always get comments from the people running the booths here about the quality of the job candidates in Tinley Park,” he said. “They’re not only better groomed and dressed than in many other areas but are generally better educated and highly motivated.”

Actually, it was a little depressing to see so many highly educated, well-spoken adults out of work.

Angelique Morris, of Orland Park, a former insurance sales representative for Delta Dental, seemed to be one of the few in her element at the event.

“There are a lot of opportunities here for sales, and that’s what I do,” Morris said, noting booths for Thomas Auto, Farmers Insurance, Aflac, New York Life and Penn Global Marketing. “I’ve been working as a consultant so I’m not really unemployed, but a full-time job would be better.

“There are a lot of opportunities here if you have the right skill set,” she said, expressing the optimism of a saleswoman.

Lester House, a former IT project manager for BMO Harris Bank, found the fair less impressive.

“It doesn’t fit my market,” House said. “I was hoping some bank would be here, but there wasn’t any.”

He said he’s heard of some opportunities, “but it is a matter of being in the right place at the right time and a lot of this is who you know.

“I’m not despondent, though,” he said, adding quickly, “not yet anyway.”

When you are looking for a job, the one thing you really want is a chance to impress the person who does the hiring.

But that opportunity is rare these days.

No one wants to talk. No one wants to shake your hand. No one wants to meet an unemployed person and have to say, “Sorry, we can’t use you.”

And so the job fair is the last hope for the jobless to make their sales pitch.

They get to briefly look another human in the eye and say, “Give me a chance, I want to work.”

The only problem is there often are dozens of people behind them waiting for that same 60 seconds of face time.



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