I went to my first job fair on Friday. How exciting! I would get to meet employers and maybe make my case to one of them!
On my way there I was a bit anxious but ready. I didn’t get lost while walking there (which is an achievement really), I had 10 CVs in my bag, I was dressed smart. I also played the game “who’s going to the same place as me?” in my head, judging every person I saw on the street, disliking them for the simple reason they could all be potential competitors.
I also pep talked myself: “right. You are bilingual. You’re going to a bilingual fair. You have something loads of non-bilingual people don’t have. These employers are seeking someone like you and you’re gonna ace it!”
How wrong was I! I got in there and I felt like I was participating in a Ice Bucket Challenge I didn’t sign up for – though, to be fair, nobody signs up for it. It was a cold, icy shower. There were at least 25 people queuing for each job, hoping to make a difference.
My French arrogance went down the drain in a second. There were many people like me, after all. And here I was, thinking I was special!
Fortunately, the company I was here for had no one queuing for. Apparently, the gaming industry is not the top priority for job seekers these days. I gathered my courage and approached them.
“Are you already involved in the gaming world?” they asked me. “I do have a Steam account, yes and I’ve finished the two Portal games” I answered in an exaggerated smug behaviour. They laughed. Everything was going great. I got introduced to my potential future boss and we hit it off from the start, laughing and sharing the same interests. I could already see myself working there, having tons of fun with my future colleagues.
“Would you be willing to relocate?” he asked me. Uh-oh. “Because our office is in Newcastle. We provide relocating packages.” There it was, the disappointment. The second icy shower of the day. I tried to smile convincingly and said “Oh really? I’ve lived there for a year, as an Erasmus student. I loved it.” Which is true. But would I be willing to go back there as a professional? I’m not sure.
So I asked him, “Would it be possible to work from a London office maybe, liaising with you via Skype?” The answer was negative, because they preferred working all together in the same office, to have a team environment. He was understanding when I said I started a life here in London, he took my CV, gave me some goodies and we said goodbye.
I was on the verge of leaving when I thought “I’m here, I might as well try something else.” So I went to a logistics company and started talking to the least inviting recruiter I’ve ever met. Instead of presenting the company, he started the conversation almost saying “Well?”, waiting for me to sell myself to him.
Once the conversation finally took off, I stopped listening to him and tried my best not to cry. I thought, job fairs are like both Tinder and speed dating, except you don’t get to have sex in the end. You wear your best clothes and your best smile and you try to prove to the other that you are unique, you are different and you are worth trying something. And you know what? It’s bullshit. It doesn’t help your self esteem nor your confidence and seeing all of these people trying for the same job is nothing but depressing.
It’s a good thing though, to be slapped by reality sometimes. It’s difficult to know what you’re fighting against when applying for jobs on the internet, it all becomes quite abstract.
So thank you, job fair, to have showed me the shit reality of the job market. I needed the reality check even if I died inside. And you know what? I went shopping after that experience and my two new pairs of jeans look great.