Quality Foods executive assistant Dianna Rivard accepts a resume from Grade 9 Ballenas student Willow Cabral Thursday afternoon at the annual hiring fair hosted at the Parksville Community and Conference Center by the Career Centre and Work B.C. Hundreds of people came out to speak with potential future employers

Column: Hiring Fair interloper in Parksville

Reporter Auren Ruvinsky went undercover, sort of, at the Career Fair last week in Parksville

“Oh my god, I’m so overwhelmed right now!”

That wasn’t quite my feeling, but the sentiment overheard from a high school student at the recent Parksville hiring fair was easy to understand.

As a… not high-school age, pretend job seeker…  I could still see how the clamour of activity and potential job success could be a bit intense.

The big room at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre was packed with 29 potential employers’ tables, providing information and accepting resumes.

There was a wide and eclectic mix of job seekers from mid-teens to seniors, people in suits and people — like me — looking a bit scruffy and ill prepared.

While companies were welcoming people of all ages, the 85-plus students bussed in from local high schools made it feel like an entry level event. When I approached, the tone changed quickly.

“We don’t have any outdoor work, just front desk,” a resort representative said unprompted when I asked if they had specific job postings.

Even just playing a job seeker I could feel the pressure. There is something inherently nerve wracking about any application process. A room full of snap judgments, mine about what the employers might be looking for — and be able to offer — and their’s about who I might be.

I was crushed when I realized nobody was going to offer me a job on the spot… until I remembered I was scruffy and only pretending. Then I was surprised they were so patient and accommodating.

Every employer was friendly and welcoming, happy to just provide information and chat. Some had specific job openings. All were taking applications, and several were hiring, or short-listing potential hires on the spot.

Lori Koop, operations manager with the organizing Parksville Career Centre, said Tigh-Na-Mara thought they might hire five people they found that day.

While some tables were mostly informational, like RBC, which explained their main Vancouver office did the initial phone interview for all new-hires, others were delving much deeper.

Island Health had 53 people registered for a 90-minute info session on how to apply, and what it’s like, to work for that public health authority.

“Many people felt empowered by the face-to-face opportunity,” Koop said, adding that the employers were very impressed with the high calibre of most applicants.

While many of the young people wandered around with glazed eyes, awkwardly handing over resumes or filling in applications, admitting they were very nervous — others were all over it.

“The employers are much more approachable here than at their business,” said Grade 10 student Gibson Clark, who was excited by the easy opportunity to apply for several entry level service industry jobs.

The more ambitious students were dressed up and had spent time preparing and practising at school.

Koop said they had 483 job seekers through the doors, up from last year, and the feedback from both sides has been very positive.

For more information contact The Career Centre at 250-248-3205 or www.careercentre.org.

— Auren Ruvinsky is a reporter with

The NEWS. E-mail: writer@pqbnews.com

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