Shannon Quinn, 26, wants to work for the FBI when she graduates from Towson State University in May, and she found a hopeful sign at the university's annual job fair yesterday.
After several years absence, the bureau had a recruiting booth at the fair this year.
There was good news for other job seekers, too. Alice M. Feeney, the fair's chairwoman, said the number of firms out recruiting rose by 60 percent this year, to a total of 112. They
included some sought-after employers, such as Bethlehem Steel Corp. and Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.
"We have employers we haven't seen in years -- a really good representation," she said.
Ms. Feeney also estimated that 2,000 prospective employees would visit the Towson Center recruiting booths by the end of the all-day event, up from 1,600 last year.
Ms. Quinn, a marketing major, and her friend Melissa Grazioli, 22, a graduating senior in mass communications, arrived an hour after the 9 a.m. opening and were still going strong as 3 p.m. approached.
"The majority are sales jobs, very low level, Ms. Grazioli said.
She was particularly interested in the Omni Hotels booth, but so were others. "There were about 40,000 people in line there," she said.
The fair has become an annual magnet for job seekers since its inception in 1965 at the downtown Baltimore Civic Center. Called "Operation Native Son" in those days, the fair broadened its scope with the times and, after a recession-induced hiatus from 1975 to 1978, it relocated to Towson.
Joseph S. Little, a recruiter for John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance, summed up one of the changes in the fair with a single word when asked if he was looking for salesmen.
"Salespersons," he replied.
"You can make $35,000-$40,000 your first year if you really want to work hard," he said, adding that those who do well won't have a problem with the commission-only pay.
Job-seekers got booklets at the door listing the employers, who ranged from the Baltimore County Police Department to the Taco Bell and Western Auto chains, both of which were looking for management trainees.
The range of applicants varied, too. Omar Ahmed, 34, a business administration graduate of Geneva College near Pittsburgh, said sold his restaurant in State College, Pa., to return to school and came to Towson looking for opportunities with international companies.
Chris Richards, 22, a Towson State student, was looking for an opening in sports management. "I think it's a good opportunity to get your resume out and talk to people," he said. "I'm pretty impressed.
Sharon Arfa, 29, liked the idea of face-to-face contact, too.
She graduated from Towson State in 1988 with a marketing degree, and last year obtained a master's in psychology. She's looking for a job in human resources, so far without success.
"People don't want to talk to you on the phone," she said. "This is an opportunity to find out about a lot of companies. It gives you an opportunity to present yourself."
Janice D. Summers, 45, of Parkville spent 23 years in banking and financial businesses and finally got her college degree in 1990. She was laid off in September by a financial management company going through hard times.
"I'm a writer; I do resumes, cover letters. I'm working in retail management now," she said, adding that she is seeking a personnel job.
Most of the prospective employees were more like Shawn Piccione, 22, a Salisbury State College accounting major who expects to graduate in 1995. She said she is looking for that first opening, that first chance -- somewhere.