Wednesday, May 22

Job fair just too close to real world for this columnist

Job fair just too close to real world for this columnist

Clean underwear, suits, authority all forbidden words

Wandering around the campus the other day (at a time when, in
theory, I should be in class), I stumbled upon something. It was
something I did not expect, something I feared. It was the UBS
(Unidentified Board of Something) 14th Annual Job Fair.

I reached deep down in my memory and pulled out what my father
had told me. "Son," he said to me, "when a man and woman really
love each other, often they … " Wait, wrong father-son talk. "Now
that you are close to graduating, son, you better meet with the
recruiters at the campus job fairs."

Because this time of year the Internal Revenue Service might be
after my father, I will change his name for protection. From this
point on I will refer to him as hmmm … Dad. So thanks to my dad,
I knew that these events were supposed to occur, I just always
thought they would happen to the other guy. My attitude has been
"Now that you shelled out all that money for my six-year party, you
actually expect me to get a job or something, don’t you, Dad? Dad?
Dad you’re not laughing."

So with my dad sitting on one shoulder like a little angel, I
approached the front doors of Ackerman Grand Ballroom where the
torture was nicely proceeding. At the front door, several people
hung around. There were many sweaty, pale-faced seniors debating if
they had it in them to enter. They were teetering on the edge of
reality, not sure if they liked what they saw.

I could tell their fathers were sitting on one shoulder
whispering encouraging words like succeed, challenge, strive.

On the other shoulder was Beavis, whispering "work sucks." I
couldn’t tell if these people were going to make the step and jump
out of the frying pan and into the flaming heat substance. (If
Beavis can no longer say that word, I’m going to stand by him.)

I took a deep breath, bowed my head and rushed through the door.
Wait a darn minute, is this a black tie event? Why is everybody
dressed up? Oh no, I thought, is prom happening all over again?
Everybody was in a suit. I don’t even own a suit (bathing suit and
Malibu Ken Night at the Grammys Tux not included). If this is what
work looks like, I’ve had enough.

If I’m going to work for a living, I want Chuck "Eye on L.A."
Henry’s job. All that guy does is go to the tropics (which, as far
as I know, Los Angeles is not in), test jet skis and judge bikini
contests – three contests a week.

Just to appease Dad, however, I took one lap around the ballroom
(doing the waltz in a split-tiger-hurry-up-offense mode) and picked
up a brochure for the fair. It always helps to have tangible proof
when trying to appease parents.

I quickly made a beeline for the door, in search of loftier
career goals than that dump had to offer. I went straight for the
lottery ticket machine on the B-level of Ackerman. Now that’s the
kind of career I can handle, Lottery Purchasing Associate. I didn’t
win, by the way. I was, however, one X away from 20,000 dollars,
which is just my darn luck because that’s always how close I

As my next class of the day floated slowly from boring to
furiously mundane, I scrambled for something to do in an effort to
fight off sleep. I’m getting tired of waking up with drool on my
desk, so I turned to the job fair booklet. As soon as I figured out
that it was upside down and corrected my mistake, pure comedy is
what I found.

Other people might see it as a normal, informative brochure for
the continuance (which might not be a word, but should be) of their
lives. I flipped through the pages finding sheer Fozzie the
Bearesque/wacka wacka-ish humor. If you’d like, I’ll share some
comedy with you. If you don’t like, shut the paper and get back to
taking notes, E = MC Hammer.

The handbook started off with a page that welcomed me to the job
fair, and hard as I looked, it just wasn’t funny. Actually, it
pissed me off a little when it wished me a successful and enjoyable
day. They obviously weren’t pulling for me when I needed only one
more X to win 20 grand at Tic-Tac-Dough.

The next section was called "Preparing For Job Fair." This, to
me, seemed a little odd in a booklet that I had picked up at the
door of the fair. When did they foresee this prep-time taking
place? Several tips that this section provided are as follows:

* "Prepare your resume." My mind flashed to my very impressive

1) Assistant to the co-head of the french fry department at
Burger King.

2) Baby-sat for my little brother once for 10 minutes while my
mom was in the shower, and almost refrained from beating him

3) Extensive computer knowledge (i.e. I can reach level 30 on
Tetris, and finally figured out how to check my e-mail).

4) Vast array of community service activities, which were not
(fingers crossed) mandated by the court.

* "The more information you can gather about the company in
advance, the gooder time you is gonna have" (direct quote). I took
this suggestion to heart and figured I would go back to the Marine
Corps table and tell him I had seen dozens of films about his
organization, my favorites being "Stripes" and "Cadence" because I
really admired the main characters for their military integrity and
work ethic.

* "Obtain a notebook for your research and for note taking."
It’s fifth week of school, and I only have a paper clip serving as
a folder for all four of my classes, and they expect me to buy a

* "Plan to wear appropriate attire." By this I’m sure they must
be talking about wearing clean underwear, and dog gone it, I just
didn’t qualify.

* "Prepare a list of questions to ask the representative." I
jotted down a few I thought would be pertinent.

1) Where is the bathroom?

2) Are you giving away free stuff?

3) Does your company have a place for a low-skilled, lazy,
underachieving, kleptomaniac like myself?

4) Would you like to check my underwear to see if they are clean
(hoping that my bluff won’t be called)?

The next part was called "Questions you might ask at the job
fair" where they suggest some of their own. I really don’t think
that these representatives are giving you honest answers. We know
from life experience that things aren’t always what they seem. Just
because I go crazy for cookies doesn’t make me Oscar the

When you ask how an employee is evaluated and promoted, they’re
not going to tell you that they use a dart board or pull names out
of a hat. When you inquire about what qualities they are looking
for in a new hire, the representative won’t come right out and say
he wants someone who will kiss some good ass and isn’t afraid to
get one’s lips dirty.

The Marine recruiter is not going to be honest when you ask him
about the training program they have. You’re going to leave there
thinking you’re on your way to Club Med.

Especially when you ask the U.S. Post Office representative what
advice he would give to a young person going into the field, he’s
not going to tell the truth. What he’s actually thinking is "Get
out now, I’m going insane, and any day I’m going to snap, taking
hundreds of ‘It’s A Small World’ passengers with me." Learn to read
between the lines.

The rest of the booklet was filled with ads from the individual
companies represented; funny, funny, funny. I couldn’t stop from
laughing aloud as I read through.

One part that caught my attention in particular was "What every
college senior needs to know about succeeding in business: 1)GET
YOUR DEGREE, 2)CALL ENTERPRISE." I’m really glad I saw this because
before I thought it was the other way around, and I was about to do

As I went into the job fair and preceded to rip apart the
booklet, I thought to myself, I’ll show the man. I’m not going to
fall into this whole capitalistic, evil, dog-eat-dog ("and I’m
wearing milk bone underwear" – Norm Peterson) job world. I’ll just
write about the whole thing and make fun of it as a protest to
growing up.

Then it occurred to me I had tricked myself; I want to write
comedy (at least this week those are my aspirations), and here I
was, practicing. Oh well, kinda makes me wonder … did I leave the
iron on?

Birkenstein could not fit all his ramblings about the job fair
in this small column. To learn more about this subject, send $19.95
to Birkenstein for a copy of his book. When he finishes it (or
starts it for that matter) he’ll send you a copy.

Brian BirkensteinComments to [email protected]

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