These are times of economic disaster. Any suggestion to create work should be welcomed because the unemployment rates escalate to dramatic figures all over in Europe. In the Netherlands, although the situation is not as terrifying as in Southern Europe, the ghost of unemployment also appears before some individuals. Some social organizations (MOVISIE, for example) call vulnerable groups (kwetsbare groepen) those individuals that have common characteristics which make them more vulnerable in society (1). Those are the ones that see the ghost of unemployment sooner and often. However, there are many fragile individuals that escape any framing within any group. Those are the most vulnerable of them all.
‘Increase your chances to develop a career’ sounds good. This was the motto of several prestigious organizations, institutions, businesses, and experts in the Dutch labour market that organized the fair ‘woman and career plus diversity works’ (vrouw en carrière and diversity works). The target: vulnerable although highly educated groups. Here, assembled under one umbrella, two sets of people were invited: ‘women’ and the ‘cultural Other’. In my opinion, things are not as simple as the slogan ‘woman and career plus diversity works’ seems to imply, but let us pass the simplistic combination of the concepts woman and diversity. Let us be practical.
However, I have difficulties figuring out to which group do I belong…to the woman/career or to the diversity/works? Most probably to none of them because everything in that fair seemed to be directed to the ‘young professional’ and I am not so young anymore and (although highly educated) I am currently without a profession. Nonetheless, a friend and I assisted to this fair, in the name of the common sense that told us “you have to be positive and try to find a job anywhere”. We had plenty of questions to make to potential future employers: what kind of employees are you trying to find? What do you look for in an employee? How many jobs do you have available in your company? How does the process of selection work? Do you have tips for those who want to work in your company? What do I have to do to come to work for you?
We expected to get some interactions with companies, institutions and organizations. We thought we would find:
- Firms explaining briefly what they needed.
- Institutions informing about their programs to boost employment rates.
- The Dutch chamber of commerce (KVK) updating their proposals for training on how to start your own business.
We did not find what we expected and any direct interaction with employers was impossible because they were not there…Well, there were a Dutch bank, the police, and a couple of technological companies… I actually approached one electric/gas firm and asked to a spokesperson whether they would require any graduate in humanism … “Here, we are all engineers…” he answered… With a big smile I said “I had already guessed it was more a kind of rhetorical question”…He did not appreciate my subtle joke though, which made me think that indeed they do need humanists more than what they think.
The fair’s organizers had scheduled workshops, which were assumed to teach you everything you were supposed to learn there. Among other inspiring matters, the workshops would teach you about: how to keep your daily inner balance and combat stress; how to ‘networking’ and improve your links in real and virtual life; how to negotiate; how to dress for success; which colour would suit you better in developing a career….
Most of the workshops were directed to those who were already within the work-machine. All those inspiring ideas did not really help the outsiders trying to get in the work-machine. However, during the fair, it was possible to get your resume (CV) reviewed by an intermediary or in other words recruitment bureau. These bureaus consider themselves experts in the recruitment business (‘werving en selectie’) and they had a busy time checking resumes.
In fact, the figure of the intermediary was visibly present in this fair. Not only you would find there the recruitment bureaus (for example Jobnet and Randstad) but also ‘the star of our times’: the coach. There was ample offer of advisers and guides that would help your steps to develop a wonderful career. I did not ask about their rates but I thought it was very helpful to know that in urgent need I can always begin my own business as a coach.
In sum, the woman and career fair, that joined forces to the diversity works fair, offered a broad range of advice to the already employed. There was also plenty of space for those who advertised their services to help you grow and develop a bright career. Therefore, basically, the firms present in the fair were there to find clients not to find employees. The actual vacancies were nowhere to be seen. Perhaps this was obvious for some people, all those who did not bother to pay a visit to the fair…
(1) MOVISIE, definition of vulnerable groups: Definitie kwetsbare groepen