Job fair: where the unemployed, underemployed, and the nervous wrecks are

A intern meets her future self at a job fair.


fringes-logoAt 7 a.m., on Labor day, I found myself in front of the building of the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) for the job fair organized by the Department of Labor and Employment.

Unfamiliar with the area, I was slowly walking, when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around and saw a girl who looked younger than I am, asking if I know the venue of the job fair. I told her that I was also looking for it and we could go together.

The girl was Judy Ann Cejas, a high school graduate looking for a job to support her college studies. When I asked what kind of job she preferred, she said “Anything as long as it pays.”

When we reached the PICC Forum 1, I was surprised to see only a few people around. I expected that the place would be jam-packed with jobless people, now numbering 9 million, according to government statistics.

I found a seat near the front of the line, and from there I could see the other side of the venue, where I assumed the interviews will be held. That was when it started sinking in: I’m at a job fair, about to be interviewed. I don’t do well on interviews. It’s either I’ll stutter or I’ll say something that I’ll be ashamed of later.

I started tapping my toes, biting my nails, looking around for no apparent reason — clear signs that I was rattled. The girl on my right side noticed that I can’t sit still. She smiled at me and said “Don’t be nervous.”

I started talking to her and I learned that her name is Jobell Lopez, a former Guest Services Assistant, who was previously hired at a job fair. She shared some tips: “You have to own it, consider yourself hired, be confident,” she said.

At past 7 a.m., an emcee announced that we could check the available jobs posted at the backside of the waiting area. That was when I saw that the number of job applicants had already doubled.

Browsing through the listed jobs, three things stood out: (1) most of the companies require college graduates; (2) business-related jobs dominated the list; (3) there was no available job suitable for a Journalism major like me.

I have to settle for “promodiser” or service crew since I haven’t graduated yet. There was also a panel posted with job offers abroad. That was where I met Joel Canovas, a crane operator from Batangas City. Since it was holiday, he, together with his co-workers, grabbed the opportunity to go to the job fair to look for a job abroad because he said his current job doesn’t pay enough to support his family. For him working abroad is the only way to give his family a better life.

It was the opposite case for former seaman Rodolfo Bernalies, he chose to quit his job abroad due to homesickness. He said that he was willing to accept any job as long as it won’t take him away from his family.

At around 8 a.m., the emcee announced that we could go back to our seats so that the program could start. I was about to go back to my seat when I noticed that all seats were already occupied, and I was left standing, together with a few people. I just lost my spot in line: “What the eff!”

Then the marshals allowed applicants in for the interviews. I was burning holes at the back of the head of the person occupying my former seat. Then, he was allowed in. I was fuming.

By 10:30 a.m., I was still in the waiting area. I actually wanted to stay to complete the experience, but I needed to go for my second coverage that day. As I was leaving, I saw Judy Ann, and I asked her how her interview went. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Wala e.” (No luck.)

I was not really looking for a job, and was just there for a feature story assignment. But as I looked at the PICC building, thinking of the stories of the people I’ve met, I felt a tinge of uncertainty on what will happen to me when I graduate next year. (

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