By Jacqueline Taylor, NNPA Special Correspondent –
WASHINGTON (NNPA) - Following a rousing speech by President Barack Obama—who emphasized America’s growing economy and an increase in private sector jobs—the National Urban League kicked off the start of its largest career fair to commemorate its Centennial Conference as the Black jobless rate continues at more than 15 percent.
The NUL Conference, led by President and CEO Marc H. Morial, was held at Washington, D.C.’s Convention Center, where more than 2,000 prospective employees came from around the country to speak to the nearly 80 recruiters on hand from companies, organizations, and government agencies. They ranged from Allstate to Pitney Bowes to the United States Department of Agriculture and Adecco.
With 15 years of experience, job seeker Joy Lindsey from Alexandria, Va. made her rounds to the various booths. Unemployed for the last seven months, Lindsey—who holds a master’s degree in advertising—remains optimistic about her future.
“I’m looking for a career transition that offers me growth,” Lindsey said. “I’m here to connect with someone that may be a few degrees of separation from a key player. I need help to get an interview and build a continual network of support.”
Wanda Jackson, NUL Vice President of Human Resources, noted that this year’s career fair is not unique to the organization.
“For the last 100 years, the Urban League has been putting people in positions and helping them find jobs,” said Jackson. “In this economy, with so many people unemployed…making jobs available is perhaps the most important thing we can do.”
Adecco staffing consultant Lindsay Nolan was on hand to recruit for general administrative positions in the D.C. metropolitan area. Nolan emphasized that when she reviews resumes, she is looking for stable work experience.
“Job-hopping does not typically look good for administrative roles,” Nolan noted. “That’s always a red flag for me.”
Travis Brown of Daytona Beach Florida had stopped at 20 booths and spoken to 12 representatives. He said he found the representatives to be friendly. Having graduated with degrees in Political Science and English four years ago from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he’s anticipating that he might not find a job right away.
“I anticipate the job search taking about two months,” said Brown. “I’m hoping that because the exhibitors are here they are actively recruiting. There’s a little less work on my part in having to actively find folks who are actively recruiting. I’m hoping they are here just not to get their names out there.”
Given Brown’s previous experience, he’s hoping to map out his search before moving to D.C.. He used the onsite computers, sponsored by Diversity Connect, to make contact with employers seeking to hire a diverse workforce.
“I’ll be moving to the DC area and I figure the job fair would give me a head start on a career,” Brown stated. “I’ve moved two places without having a job and it’s not a good feeling.”
NUL also had available career-focused workshops entitled: Resume Retool, Digital Networking, and Looking for a Job in the Right Place. Job seekers also had access to free half-hour coaching sessions. Veronica Conway, Master Certified Coach, spoke to clients in a private area void of the hustle and bustle of the fair. She pointed out that coaching is not advice or therapy.
“Coaching is directing them [clients] in a mindset that leads to behavior change,” said Conway. “We challenge the clients to think bigger, act faster, dig deeper, and trust themselves more. People have everything they need inside of them, but often do not trust themselves.”
The job fair also attracted individuals who are currently employed. Urban League Guild member, Jeffery Berry, came to the conference to support his CEO and President Ralph Holman. The Milwaukee, Wis. resident is interested in starting a new chapter of life on the East Coast.
“I spoke to a Career Coach about my portfolio and what I could do to make it fit the experience level of jobs here in the East Coast,” stated Berry. “The coach discussed the importance of triple proofing your resume, updating contact information on the resume, and the importance of refining your elevator speech. In a couple of months I will be turning a half century old and am looking forward to using my new sharpened skills and experience.”
Next year’s conference is scheduled to take place in Boston, Mass.
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