Welcome Everyone To Job Fair

“Dreams flow across the heartland
Feeding on the fires
Dreams transport desires
Drive you when you’re down
Dreams transport the ones who need to get out of town…”

—Neil Peart


Or the ones who need to get out of jail.

“Welcome to Job Fair everyone!”

The auditorium filled with clapping and laughter, every seat taken by women of all shapes and sizes, from all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, but most of them simply wore gray and orange jumpsuits.

Women in various outfits ranging from office professional to “street” professional lined the stage. A Dress for Success representative proceeded to review each outfit, not hesitating to ridicule all but two of the women.

One woman, dressed like a cutesy sailor girl, and another like a call girl, were called out.

“Ladies, companies don’t hire whores or children, they hire adults.”

The crowd whooped it up, and the two women not ridiculed were selected for the next round of Job Fair.

On stage, an executive from Phillip Morris then interviewed the two well-dressed women. Yes, the cigarette company. One of the women was much more prepped than the other, much more professional in her demeanor, much more thoughtful in her interview answers. The other, not so much.

“The winner is, Tasha Jefferson!” announced the Phillip Morris executive.

A few minutes later, Tasha stopped the assistant warden and asked her about getting the actual job she had just “won” in the Job Fair contest. The assistant warden proceeded to tell her nobody wins a job in prison.

Tasha was crestfallen.

“Okay,” the assistant warden conceded, “you’ll get ten dollars added to your personal account.”

Tasha smiled. “That’s something,” she said.

But none of this was real, at least, not quite. It was a scene from a Netflix show based on one women’s experience in prison called Orange Is the New Black. (Funny they called it “Job Fair” as in an official, proper name, not “the job fair.”)

It struck me as I watched this particular episode that, with the dismal employee engagement numbers and voluntary attrition rates as they are, especially for hires during their first year of employment, many of us feel as if we’re in prison, chaffing against the repetition, straining against the faith,” trapped with not even continuous development “conjugal” visits to temper the daily grind.

Peers and colleagues help, of course, but most are just as trapped as you are, some even in solitary. But mercy me, many of us are on stage everyday at Job Fair trying to be seen, to be heard, to be considered for other internal opportunities should they make themselves apparent as well as being an apparent fit.

Apparently not, although maybe there’s a little extra added to our paychecks, because indeed we are somewhat valued. That’s why it should be no surprise why companies struggle to retain top talent from the moment the ink is dry on the new hire paperwork (hopefully that’s online paperwork, you know?).

The good news?

Listening to talent leaders like Tracey Arnish, SVP of Talent at SAP, talk about how they foster development from the recruiting front end for all new employees, and how they empower career paths and opportunities right from the first-day get-go, a refreshing one-size-fits-one approach.

And how they themselves have experienced longevity in the organization because they had the opportunity to work up and across the business (think like a lattice), gaining valuable insight for where they ultimately ended up at this point. Not everyone will end up on the leadership path, but everyone should end up on a development one that continually maximizes their value for both individual and collective.

Which is why we should always:

  • Welcome. This may include assigning buddies and peer-to-peer networks seamlessly before day one even starts, so the new employees feel welcome and have support, regardless of role, classification or location (in the office or remote). Incremental and attainable individual and group goals can also be set up with their first 3-6 months to ensure complete workplace and cultural immersion as well as shortening their initial time to contribution.
  • Everyone to Job Fair. Once onboarded, networked and contributing, every single person — full-time to part-time to temp to contingent — is a perpetual candidate and a growth opportunity for the company at large. In turn, providing a continuous mobility experience to your workforce that includes the flexibility to dial up and down their level of contribution, while ensuring they’re career paths are personalized growth opportunities, are the keys to retaining knowledge and your competitive edge.

Companies invest a lot in their talent up front and to lose them quickly because of little to no nurturing empowers their competitors. Why look outside first when you already have a highly competitive and trained internal talent community and referral network?

Nobody wants to work in a prison. Let the Job Fair rehabilitation begin.

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