By Sharon Aschaiek
Two years ago, 50-year-old Jaime Londono moved with his family to Toronto from Cali, Columbia, in search of new opportunities.
Last Wednesday, his search led him to The National Job Fair, the province's largest employment and education fair.
At The National Job Fair, job seekers had access to informative seminars, and to 43 different exhibitors that included employers, schools and placement agencies.
"This is the biggest job fair I've been to," said Londono from the top of the stairs, looking over the frenetic mass of job hunters.
At the moment, Londono holds down two part-time jobs -- one as a personal support worker for the elderly, another in maintenance -- until he can find work in his field: community development and health education.
He's already left his resume with several of the exhibitors and is taking a break, absorbing the magnitude of the scene. "Toronto has a lot of job hunters," he says.
Indeed, Londono was just one of thousands of job seekers who descended on the Metro Toronto Convention Centre last Wednesday and Thursday, armed with resumes and decked out in their finest interview apparel -- a segregated interview area was set up for those lucky individuals -- primed to scoop themselves a job.
For just a $3 cover charge, they had their pick from 43 different exhibitors that included employers, staffing agencies and post-secondary schools.
| Jaime Londono
The savviest job seekers arrived first thing Wednesday morning at 10 a.m., but that didn't matter - thick, anxious crowds and long lineups at many booths were the rule.
Yet the job seekers, who ranged in age from their mid-20s to their mid-50s, were determined, patiently waiting to hear more about opportunities with Primerica, Smart Set, Peel Regional Police and the Canadian forces.
"I already have a job, but the company isn't growing, and there's no place to go, so I'm looking for alternatives," said Chantelle Gallagher, 30, who works as a business analyst.
This isn't a new experience for her, but Gallagher was impressed by the scope and the clarity of the exhibitors.
"I've been to a lot of smaller ones, but the opportunities her are more focused," she says. "People at the booths know what they're looking for."
Electrical engineer Tony Guo has been searching for new work for the last six months.
"I'm not satisfied with my current job. I'm looking for some new opportunities," said Guo, 31. "But there's nobody hiring from my field."
Attendees got the opportunity to learn from the experts -- representatives from many of the booths, including staffing agency Manpower Canada, The Toronto Sun and Trios College of Information Technology gave presentations on getting ahead.
About 14,000 job seekers attended the fair.
"To determine what kind of work you want to do, ask yourself: What motivates me? What do I want out of work? Do I want to work alone or with others?
"In a casual or structured work environment? What kind of duties do I want to perform?" said Shannon Jackson of Manpower.
She also addressed developing a targeted resume, proper interview etiquette, and the importance of making informational interviews a part of your job search.
"Speak to someone in the field about what's involved, the duties and rewards. Have some structured questions prepared," Jackson said.
Event organizer Daniel Levesque says the turnout far surpassed his expectations.
"At the last fair in September, we had 9,000 visitors. This year, we had about 14,000," he says.
He adds that the positive feedback he's received will help make the next job fair, scheduled for Sept. 18 and 19 at the MTCC, even bigger and better.
"Most of the exhibitors said they would come back next year, and we've had interest from new exhibitors," Levesque says.
"Our goal is to increase the number of exhibitors next time by 50%."
Meanwhile, like everyone else at the fair, Jaime Londono will continue to plug away at his job search.
"There was some really good information here," he says. "I'll just keep on looking."
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