Jennifer Reusch went to Saturday's Employment Marketplace fair expecting to sell herself to prospective employers.
Instead, the employers assembled at Lawrence Riverfront Plaza Factory Outlets were selling themselves to her.
It didn't hurt that the 23-year-old was looking for night work -- normally positions that are harder to fill -- so she could be home during the day for her two children.
But employers experienced a different mood than in the past as low unemployment has put a premium on competent help.
``It's an applicant's market,'' said Kirsten Krug, employee and community relations administrator with Garage Door Group. ``They can pretty much pick and choose.''
``It seems like the game has changed a little bit,'' said Gretchen Gwaltney, who works for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce and was helping people search for jobs on the Internet.
The traffic Saturday at the fair, sponsored by the chamber and the Journal-World, was not as intense as at past fairs, but it was steady.
And it gave representatives of the 28 companies more time to talk, and sell.
``We didn't bring nearly enough handouts,'' said Jan Whiting, employment manager with Oread Labs, a pharmaceutical company.
Lawrence public schools had a booth for the first time.
``We've had good interest,'' said Marcia Bone, director of human resources.
Bone said the school district can't compete paywise in a labor-short market.
``It has to be people who want to make a difference,'' Bone said. By attending the job fair, Bone and Assistant Supt. Randy Weseman were able to explain the other benefits of working for a school district.
The people attending Saturday's fair had a broad range of experience levels and ages.
Experienced professionals shared booth space with young unskilled workers.
Women in dresses and heels passed men in cut-off shorts.
And people with jobs listened over the shoulders of people without.
``We've actually seen more skilled people than we expected,'' Whiting said. ``We've had a lot of very seasoned professionals.''
Reusch fell on the lower end of the experience scale. But she came away with plans to pursue two jobs, one at Garage Door Group paying $8 an hour and another at Standard Liquor Corp. paying $7.50.
The deciding factor may be the benefits they offer, Reusch said.
-- Kendrick Blackwood's phone message number is 832-7221. His e-mail address is email@example.com.