Thursday, March 19, 2009

Los Angeles Career Fair 2009 - Hall of the Damned

Wow. I knew it wouldn't be good, but what shit was that? In both the interests of practicing my presentation skills and in deference to the suggestions of relatives who would have me humble myself in hair shirt ritual, I attended the 3/18 Los Angeles Career Fair at the airport Radisson promoted by  

Do you want to sell yuppie tupperware?Then this is for you. Would you like to explore opportunities selling crap jewelry, beauty products, credit card swiper systems - being paid only when you get a client? Then this is for you.  Are you interested in sweating to line up clients and recruits in a multi-level marketing finance scheme for a company that has incurred fines from the National Association of Security Dealers for fraud and misconduct? Then this is for you. Make sure you have a firm handshake, bright smile, dress appropriately, and have your résumé in order!!!

Welcome to the LA Career Fair at the Radisson where it costs $10 for parking in a lot so cramped that even though the parking is valet you'll still be worried your car will get dinged. I opted for a nearby free park at $13.15 for 2.5 hours.

The line to sign in stretched across the upper lobby and down the hall to the end of a very cramped corridor with no air conditioning. People in business attire fanned themselves with their brochures and résumés. A KCET reporter from SoCal Connected scurried around looking for a head of household so her network could pimp stories of family desperation to inflame pathos for media consumption. When most of the people in line informed her they were single, she moved on. Everywhere you went,  there was someone with a huge lens trained on you.

The only two booths that were attracting attention were Coke Bottling (grunt work display jobs) and Social Security. Though they were taking three at a time, the line for SS stretched from one end of the hall to the other like the line for the Matterhorn ride at Disneyland. While waiting, I overheard a "career specialist" dispensing cookie-cutter résumé advice: "Lose the objective. It causes problems. Don't let them know you've been in business for yourself. They don't like that. They think maybe you want to be the boss." ( And this, in a nutshell, is what is wrong with HR. )

Out of the three hours the fair ran, it took fully an hour to get through the social security line at the end of which was a congenial governmental supervisor who told you that they had only just received their budget and wouldn't be hiring for the call center until the end of the month. Please submit your résumé, take a brochure, and apply online for all other positions.

What was the draw? Why the enormous, gigantic line?  "Well, look around," he said, "We're the only ones offering anything. Over there you have (unsalaried) sales, over there someone is helping people out with their résumés, we're the only ones offering anything real. The government is the only one with job security. "

And it was the sad truth. Almost everything there was a ripoff, a ruse, a scam. It was cruel to taunt people. World Financial Group was a particularly vicious example. With even precursory research, it is revealed to be a hardcore MLM scam (see here, herehere, and here). People are lured with visions of Series 6 and 7 training and tales of 30-yr-old branch supervisors making 200k per month. 

Founded by former Amway salesman Hubert Humphrey along with Primerica, WFG applies MLM techniques to the sale of financial instruments.  As with all MLM schemes, they sell inferior products, pressure you to recruit friends and family, and prey on the uneducated whose profits will go straight to supporting their "upline". The only way you make real $ is to sell the more inferior products and/or recruit more than three downlines and receive a percentage of their sales. By the end of it, many suckers have lost time, $, clients, and friends.

If there is indeed someone making 200K a month, it is as a shark on the backs of a pyramid of the desperate rather than providing any real value. The entire operation should be shut down by the authorities and it definitely should not be allowed a booth at a career fair.

Confronted directly about this essential difference with more legitimate companies, the older leader of the younger Asian cabal at the booth unashamedly dismissed it as "a different business model."  Uh, well, yeah. 

Relieved it was finally over, I was approached on my way down the stairs by what I took to be a surveyor for, but who was actually yet another rep for World Financial Group scamming for potentials. Two blocks out to the parking lot, I was handed a flyer by what seemed to be an airport panhandler looking a step-and-a-half up from homeless - but NO!  It was WFG again. By now safely out of range of the cameras and cabal, I asked her how MLM and recruiting was working out for her.  Not too well, it would seem.

There were very few white people in the mix. I always wondered how white people would fair as a minority. I imagined that though the numbers would be less, it would be difficult because they'd still be bland. Wrong. Amidst a sea of varying shades of brown pigment and textures of black hair, a shift in perception occurs and white people, particularly young white males, become the exotics, like delicate, cherubic roses from a far away, more victorian time. Interesting.

On the way home, I coffeed at my favorite Starbucks across the street from the beach. A gaggle of down-to-earth, moneyed wives of leisure in REI gear and australian accents chattered merrily about the best places to eat in Kauai and frequent flier programs. The AIG bonuses were terrible as was Bernie Madoff signing over his money to his wife days before his arrest, they all agreed.


  1. Followed the link from Sullivan's page, and I'm glad I did. Gawd, that whole thing sucked badly, didn't it? However, with your writing skills you hopefully will be employed soon. Good luck to you.

  2. This is just completely and utterly depressing, but so extremely well written I could almost feel the damnation myself.

  3. I'm so thrilled you wrote this, because being unemployed myself, and coming from the Food & Beverage business, I'm appalled by these "Job Fairs" and the scams they seem to be.

    I was afraid to write about it, for the same reasons you were, and copped to. Kudos for your courage. Great post.

    - Jennifer

  4. Sounds like my experience at a Sacramento job fair. It seems like people haven't learned pyramid scams never pay. But they hold out hope that they will be the top 1% that makes it rich. I hope they have alot of friends that are just as dumb as they are.

  5. Good writing, I agree. You do sound bitter, though. Maybe that's what you were going for? (Honest question.)

  6. I love the way the reporter moved on when everyone was single because she was looking for "head of household." Honey, I got news for you: WE ARE HEAD OF OUR HOUSEHOLD.

  7. Just to second what's written above: Excellent post, super writing. Please do more! This site has fantastic potential.

    And, yes, these 'job fairs' suck. Went to one a while ago in Massachusetts. Same story, except the weather was 17° and the people mostly pasty-faced white.

    I don't know which is more depressing: The environs of LAX or Framingham, Mass.

  8. Plenty of jobs available teaching English here in Korea. I left the states last year due to the job market (I had a job, but was way under-employed) and I doubt I'll be back for quite a while.

    Good luck.

  9. Three years ago I was laid-off. In Michigan, part of the unemployment process involves placing your resume in the MichiganWORKS job database. Hey anything to help find a new job.

    About a week later I received a call from a cheery woman explaining that she was recruiting "trainers" for a Citigroup program. I went to the interview and it was all very vague about providing basic financial planning based on templates. A couple days later I returned for the "orientation" and, wow!, what a collection of douchebaggery. It was Primerica.

    They promised unlimited income opportunities and a make your own schedule environment. What they didn't offer is any explanation for how one made money on this system. The whole thing was a scam packaged to not-very-bright dreamers in suits bought at Target.

    The best part is that I had to spent half a day tracking down an unemployment case officer to explain why I turned down the "job opportunity" in order to justify continuing to receive unemployment.

  10. I went to this Job fair was interviewed on camera for TV. I had the same experience with one exception. The people in the lobby weren't from world financial they were from another financial scammer. I have found 6 different financial scammers at these conventions all wanting you to become a "financial advisor". Yeah Right!