Friday, February 06, 2015

Looking for Work in the Land of Milk and Honey

The wannabe-workers came in droves.
While a debate rages over the true meaning of the US Government's reporting of  current unemployment figures in the mid 5-percent range--a number that does not include the unemployed who have given up looking for work--the nattily-attired men and women in the lobby of the Omni Houston Hotel Westside seemed unfazed.

They lined up to check in.
They lined up to meet representatives from eleven companies operating in the Oil & Gas realm of possibilities for work. I was among them.

I've been "under-employed" since December, when I secured two part-time jobs in the media field. I was full-bore unemployed from October until that point. Today's  Oil & Gas Job Fair was an exercise in expanding beyond my safety zone, and pitching energy companies with my skill set as a communicator.
They were intrigued, at least.

Some were dismissive to the point of near-rudeness, but most of the near-dozen companies I spoke with were more than a little impressed by my pitch. One thing is certain--I was unique. I can safely say there were no other out-of-work Radio people there.

The Rigzone Oil & Gas Job Fair was produced by Targeted Job Fairs, a part of Dice Holdings, LLP, which promises to "organize the world’s talent by compiling the most current data in the most searchable fashion." Dice also has some pretty interesting metrics to track various parameters, like how long it takes to fill a job opening (25.6 working days in November--up from 24.3 working days in October), and a Recruiting Intensity Index that reflects how hard businesses are working to fill those empty slots (a metric that tapered slightly in November). 

The women working the registration desk wouldn't comment on the record for this blog, but said the first Job Fair of the year is always well-attended. They didn't have an estimate of how many persons showed up. My guestimate would be somewhere north of 600.

Inside the Texas Ballroom, there were lines upon lines of job hopefuls. Lines snaking along the walls. Lines converging, diverging, and undulating around the room. We stood in line for 90-minutes to have 90-seconds with one company representative.
One applicant wise-cracked it was like "speed-dating" for the unemployed.

I stood behind a University of Houston Law Center candidate, specializing in Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Law; she's graduating in May, and starting her job search ahead of the pack.  Behind me was a logistics specialist from Baylor who boasted proficiency in Spanish and Portuguese. Oh, and she had a Masters' in Economics.
Yeah, I blended.

I don't know what kinds of connections these two women made today. We all agreed the real value may have been the informal networking in which we engaged while standing in line together--with a few hundred of our close, professional friends. A referral to a law firm; a query for a factory foreman; and shared information for other job-networking events in coming weeks were among the nuggets of information gleaned from our communion.
There was a lot of that going on in the room.

Towards the end of the day I observed one team from a consulting company that was not waiting behind their table, but proactively working the line of prospects looking for an introduction. A light bulb went on over my head...

I quickly went to the hotel lobby and ordered a half-dozen chocolate chip cookies from the kitchen. Then I stood at the end of that line and waited to make eye contact with one of the company reps. It didn't take long. As I introduced myself, I presented the boxed cookies, with my business card strategically placed front and center, and acknowledged their team had been there all day without a break, and that they were like due for a treat. The woman said, "why don't you come with me?" and escorted me to the head of the line at their table.

We're supposed to follow-up next week.
They've got needs--I've got skilz.

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