PHOTOS: More than 2,000 attend Naples job fair

Hilton Naples

5111 Tamiami Trail North, Naples, FL

— Career counselors often advise being early for a job interview. Attendees of Tuesday’s Naples Daily News 2009 Career Expo seemed to heed that suggestion.

At 8:30 a.m., job-seekers were entering the lobby of the Hilton Naples, the event’s sponsor. By the event’s 10 a.m. start, 50 people were registered. And one hour later, some 400 attendees had poured into the expo, said Kristen Vuknic, a Daily News multi-media recruitment specialist.

Last year’s event drew 2,000 job seekers. This year’s, the seventh annual, ultimately attracted more, Vuknic said, although a final count was not available late Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s really a testament of the local economy,” Vuknic said.

More than 30 employers from Collier and Lee counties, as well as continuing education providers, such as local universities, and military recruiters, attended the expo. Among them was Suzanne Talmont, chief financial officer of MediaBrains, a Naples online advertising company. MediaBrains manages more than 100 online business directories, Talmont said, and is growing. Currently, the company has about 25 employees.

At the expo, Talmont scouted for sales representatives. Although she saw some good resumes, she said, many of the expo-goers didn’t have the qualifications she sought, or weren’t looking for sales positions. Instead, she said, many looked for administrative jobs, or to work from home.

The large number of people attending the expo, even early in the day, was a bit startling, Talmont said.

“Usually, you get a big lunch-hour rush,” she said.

Talmont was also astonished by the age range of the job-seekers.

“One thing that’s really amazing is that it’s from 18-years-old to 60-plus,” she said.

That may be because the expo drew job-seekers from an array of professions and experience levels. Everyone from engineers to nurses to sales and marketing professionals attended Tuesday’s expo, Vuknic said. There were job-seekers laid off two weeks ago to people who have been unemployed for over a year, she said. Also, she added, some of the attendees were retirees returning to the workplace.

Robert Stolinas, a Naples resident, attended the expo. A former building superintendent with Lennar Homes, Stolinas lost his job two years ago. He searched for work, he said, but “nothing panned out.” “I’m going to open my horizons right now,” he said.

Still, one of Stolinas’ first expo stops was to familiar stomping grounds – the Kraft Construction Co. booth, where Richard J. Hart, vice-president of Kraft, was accepting resumes. However, Hart said, the company isn’t hiring until next year.

Specifically, Hart was interested in finding job-seekers with water treatment plant, solar power and health care construction experience. Those, he said, are the growing markets. Less than two hours into the expo, Hart had collected 50 resumes. And, he noted, he had talked to far more people than that.

“I didn’t anticipate so many people that had construction backgrounds,” he said.

Like Stolinas, Linda Timmons was also considering expanding her career horizons. A Cape Coral resident, Timmons was recently laid off from her position as an elementary school teacher. Last week, she had four interviews for teaching positions; for each position, she said, there were 40 to 50 other applicants.

She compared finding a job in such a competitive environment to being “like winning the lotto.” At the expo, she talked to John Norkeliunas, the broker of a new Naples real estate company, CVAY Real Estate International, about a possible administrative position, and to representatives from two local colleges about going back to school.

“I’ve decided that I need to branch out,” she said.

Not everyone who attended the expo was seeking a new job. Some, like Naples resident Deepender Deswal, were simply curious and preparing for the possibility of unemployment. There have been some recent layoffs at his workplace, Deswal said.

“You never know, so it’s better to start scouting,” he said. “Any job is unpredictable. There’s a lot more people looking for jobs, and a lot of companies are looking to cut their labor.”

To enter the expo, Deswal waited a surprising 20 minutes.

“I walked in and we were in a huge line going out to the lobby,” he said. “I didn’t expect that.”

The turnout didn’t surprise job-seeker Matt Schlesna. The Naples resident owns a landscape company, and his profits have been flagging as homeowners try to trim their expenses.

“Nobody’s got money,” he said. “Times are hard for everybody.”

Schlesna stopped into the expo to try and investigate an alternative profession. Maybe find a future, too, he said.

“Anything that’s a stable career,” he said. “I’ve got a degree in marketing.”

E-mail Elizabeth Kellar at liz@elizabethkellar.com

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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