Fair links job seekers with employers
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain email@example.com August 29, 2012 6:54PM
Katie Herndon, left, a recruiter with Advance Auto, talks with l-r Sylvania Shade, Syncere McCormick, and sisters Teryn Shade and Kierstin Shade during the Jobs4Success 2012 job fair at the Renaissance Center at Joliet Junior College in Joliet, IL on Wednesday August 29, 2012. Sylvania Shade had to bring her son Syncere McCormick with her, she is a single parent who had no one to watch him. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 1, 2012 5:13PM
JOLIET — Hundreds of job seekers flooded into the Louis Joliet Renaissance Center on Wednesday afternoon riding a wave of emotions.
Frustration, anger and exhaustion all were evident as the group went from table to table dropping off resumes and asking questions of the 50 or so employers who attended the event.
Canada native Reyeena Rehman, 47, of Plainfield said she just got her green card last year, which will allow her to work in the United States.
“Landing a job in this market is tough — extremely difficult,” she said as she stood in line to talk to employers. “I’ve been searching, but there are a lot of bogus jobs online.”
Maurice Robinson, 35, of Joliet, said one mistake — a felony drug possession conviction eight years ago — was really hurting his chances of finding a job.
“It’s just a mistake I made, and I’m trying to correct it,” he said. “Don’t hold it against me.”
Robinson, who is certified to run a forklift, said he’d rather work to help support his wife and four kids than sit at home on unemployment.
“I will be there,” he said as if speaking to a potential employer. “I will show up. I’ve never been fired.”
Alison Szymanik, 45, of Joliet, took time off to raise her three children, but now she’s completed her education and wants to work as a child welfare caseworker. But she keeps encountering roadblocks.
“I’m lacking certifications, no matter what I have in my education,” she said.
She can’t get a child welfare license unless an employer sponsors her, and she believes she can’t get an employer without the license.
“I’m very frustrated,” she said. “I’m upset. I certainly didn’t go to school to not work.”
Wednesday’s event was the first job fair hosted by Will County Workforce Services in three years, said administrative manager Susan Flessner. As hiring ticks up on the agency’s website, jobs4people.org, it makes sense to try to link the unemployed with employers who are hiring, she said.
Employers at the fair were looking for different qualities. UPS wanted part-time package handlers who could work 20 hours a week and lift up to 70 pounds at its Hodgkins facility, said Carleen Rivera, a human resources recruiter.
“Because we are a promote-from-within company, everyone starts out in packing,” she said. “It’s a foot-in-the-door job. I started out as a package handler.”
Bob Morrow of ADT Security Services was looking for sales people.
“You have to have the gift of gab, good people skills and the heart of a social worker,” he said, explaining how his sales force has to empathize with customers who have been burglarized or lost their homes in fires.
In addition to Workforce Services and Joliet Junior College, the job fair was sponsored for the first time by the Will County Center for Economic Development.
“Our businesses in Will County are still creating jobs,” said President and CEO John Greuling. “They have job openings, but they can’t find people. Will County is the place for jobs. We’ve got them.”
Advice for job seekers
Before the event, Workforce Services offered workshops to teach job seekers how to prepare for job fairs. Flessner attendees were told to prepare a good resume and bring tons of copies; scope out job fair employers online before the event; have a good, firm handshake; follow up with an email; and wear appropriate clothing.
“I tell people you really can’t be overdressed,” Flessner said. “There’s never anything wrong with wearing the best clothes you’ve got.”
Pat Fera, manager of the Workforce Investment Board, which funds Workforce Services, said one young man showed up at her office earlier Wednesday to find an outfit in the Clothes for Careers closet. He was wearing a T-shirt and shorts and Fera helped him find dress pants, a shirt and a tie.
When the man said he didn’t know how to tie a tie, Fera tied it for him.
“I just saw him upstairs, and he looks great,” Fera said during the job fair. “He was so thankful, and that makes us feel good.”