Quirky Job Fairs and Other Unconventional Places to Find Work

The New Jersey Nets (now Brooklyn Nets), host annual job fairs at the IZOD Center.
The New Jersey Nets (now Brooklyn Nets), host annual job fairs at the IZOD Center.
Abbie Parr, Getty Images

Hunting for a job is rarely fun, but it can be especially miserable during an economic crisis. With the national unemployment rate jumping to 8.1 percent in February "“ the highest mark in a quarter century "“ prospective employees are turning to new ways and unlikely places to find work, or cope without a job. Employers, meanwhile, are taking unconventional measures to lure the growing number of job seekers. Here are eight such examples.

1. LaidOffCamp

Chris Hutchins founded LaidOffCamp, a free conference with presentations on a variety of topics geared toward people who are recently unemployed or struggling to find work as freelancers or entrepreneurs, after being laid off from his job as a global management consultant in January. More than 400 campers attended LaidOffCamp's first session in a San Francisco nightclub on March 3. The day-long gathering, which was open to anyone but attracted a large number of people from the Bay Area's tech industry, featured discussions on such topics as living on a budget, coping with emotional turbulence, finding your passion, and starting your own business. "Getting laid off is an opportunity to find what you're passionate about," Hutchins told a reporter from Wired. "And not only what you're passionate about, but how you can leverage that passion to sustain yourself." The second LaidOffCamp took place in Dallas on March 6 and subsequent gatherings have already been planned in more than 20 cities throughout the country.

2. Strip Clubs

foxy-lady.jpgWhile Rhode Island's unemployment rate broke and then hovered around the 10 percent barrier in January, revenue dipped 15 percent at the Foxy Lady strip club in Providence. What was club owner Thomas Tsoumas to do? Tsoumas cut drink prices in half and business began booming, so much so that roughly 30 new jobs opened up at the Foxy Lady and two of his other clubs in Massachusetts. (Insert stimulus joke here.) Nearly 200 people showed up to Tsoumas' highly publicized job fair last weekend in hopes of landing one of several positions, including dancer, manager, bouncer, waitress, and DJ. Interviews were conducted in the club's various rooms, including the Champagne VIP Lounge, the All-Nude Solid Gold Room and the Private Dance Cabana. The owner of Christie's Cabaret in Phoenix copied Tsoumas' idea and held a job fair of his own one day later.

3. YouTube

When Ben Gullett learned that his father, Mark, was in danger of being laid off as vice president of marketing for the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning, he produced a video that he hoped would help his dad find a new job. When Mark was ultimately laid off earlier this month, Ben, 14, posted his creation on YouTube. Since then, the video has attracted more than 95,000 hits and the father-son duo has appeared on Good Morning America and The Today Show. Most importantly, it has provided Mark three promising job leads. This guy, presumably, hasn't had as much success landing a job with Barack Obama.

4. The Australian Tourism Board

best-job.jpgTourism Queensland recently sponsored a contest to find a six-month caretaker for luxurious Hamilton Island in the Great Barrier Reef. Applicants were required to submit a 1-minute video explaining why they deserved the job, which was dubbed "“ and this is tough to argue "“ "The Best Job in the World." Online voters helped whittle the pool of more than 34,000 applicants to 50 short-listed applicants. Tourism Queensland will select 10 people from the short list on April 2 to interview for the position along with one wild card applicant, who was selected via an online vote. The winner, who will keep a weekly blog and provide photo and video updates throughout his or her stay on the island, will be announced on May 6. Oh, and if you're wondering, this isn't an unpaid internship with benefits; the winner will receive a salary of $150,000 AUD (approximately $100,000 U.S.).

5. Virtual Job Fairs

sl-jobs.jpg

There's no need to worry about making a good first impression with a firm handshake at these increasingly popular events that help employers and prospective employees alike cut costs. Virtual job fairs also enable employers to target qualified candidates all over the world without ever leaving the office. Typically, interested candidates log on to a Web site and interact with a representative from a prospective employer via a personal chat room or instant messenger application. Some companies host job fairs and conduct interviews with personalized avatars in the Internet virtual world Second Life. Interviewing for a job while wearing pajamas sounds great, but you'll probably have to fight the urge to use emoticons and IM shorthand during the interview. Otherwise, you just might leave the employer on the other end of the conversation ROFL "“ and not in a good way. [Photo courtesy of Simone Brunozzi.]

6. Equine Job Fair

trotting.jpgLegendary thoroughbred Seabiscuit captured Americans' hearts during his unlikely rise to fame in the midst of the Great Depression. Might a similar equine hero emerge from the world of harness racing? Might you be along for the ride? The U.S. Trotting Association is sponsoring an equine job fair on April 29 at the Harness Racing Museum. Representatives from about 20 potential employers, including representatives from local breeders, are expected to attend the event. "The USTA recognizes this is a very labor-intensive industry; horses need skilled care every day of the year," USTA Executive Vice President Mike Tanner said in a press release. "We're pleased to join forces with the Museum to put together those who need help at their farms and stables with those who want to work in the horse industry."

7. Sports

Earlier this season, the NBA's New Jersey Nets offered 1,500 free tickets to unemployed fans who submitted resumes to the team. The Nets will also hold their fifth annual career fair on April 1 at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, N.J. Registration for the fair includes a discounted lower level ticket for a Nets game later that night. Team-sponsored sports job fairs in the major and minor leagues have become increasingly popular, but the sports industry is hardly recession proof. Just ask Mark Gullett.

8. Prison

prison.jpgIn 1983, the nonprofit agency Offender Aid and Restoration sponsored a job fair at Philadelphia's House of Correction. Shadeed A. Jaleel, the former prisoner who came up with the idea, addressed a room of 200 inmates and encouraged them to start thinking about the possibilities that awaited them upon their release. "This has never been done in any jail in America," Jaleel said. "Take notes, come prepared to ask questions. We must begin to think big." Jaleel told a reporter that he didn't expect every inmate to get a job through OAR's program, but that he thought those with initiative could thrive as free men and women. Some of the inmates, Jaleel said, already boasted marketable skills. "If you can go before a judge and say you're not guilty when you really are, then you can probably sell insurance," he said. Similar job fairs for prisoners who are nearing their release date are now common, but this isn't a recommendation to commit a crime to find a job.

10 Reusable Gifts for Your Eco-Friendliest Friend

Disposable tea bags can't compete with this pla-tea-pus and his friends.
Disposable tea bags can't compete with this pla-tea-pus and his friends.
DecorChic/Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

By this point, your eco-friendly pal probably has a reusable water bottle that accompanies them everywhere and some sturdy grocery totes that keep their plastic-bag count below par. Here are 10 other sustainable gift ideas that’ll help them in their conservation efforts.

1. Reusable Produce Bags; $13

No more staticky plastic bags.Naturally Sensible/Amazon

The complimentary plastic produce bags in grocery stores aren’t great, but neither is having all your spherical fruits and vegetables roll pell-mell down the checkout conveyor belt. Enter the perfect alternative: mesh bags that are nylon, lightweight, and even machine-washable.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Animal Tea Infusers; $16

Nothing like afternoon tea with your tiny animal friends.DecorChic/Amazon

Saying goodbye to disposable tea bags calls for a quality tea diffuser, and there’s really no reason why it shouldn’t be shaped like an adorable animal. This “ParTEA Pack” includes a hippo, platypus, otter, cat, and owl, which can all hang over the edge of a glass or mug. (In other words, you won’t have to fish them out with your fingers or dirty a spoon when your loose leaf is done steeping.)

Buy it: Amazon

3. Rocketbook Smart Notebook; $25

Typing your notes on a tablet or laptop might save trees, but it doesn’t quite capture the feeling of writing on paper with a regular pen. The Rocketbook, on the other hand, does. After you’re finished filling a page with sketches, musings, or whatever else, you scan it into the Rocketbook app with your smartphone, wipe it clean with the microfiber cloth, and start again. This one also comes with a compatible pen, but any PILOT FriXion pens will do.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Food Huggers; $13

"I'm a hugger!"Food Huggers/Amazon

It’s hard to compete with the convenience of plastic wrap or tin foil when it comes to covering the exposed end of a piece of produce or an open tin can—and keeping those leftovers in food storage containers can take up valuable space in the fridge. This set of five silicone Food Huggers stretch to fit over a wide range of circular goods, from a lidless jar to half a lemon.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Swiffer Mop Pads; $15

For floors that'll shine like the top of the Chrysler Building.Turbo Microfiber/Amazon

Swiffers may be much less unwieldy than regular mops, but the disposable pads present a problem to anyone who likes to keep their trash output to a minimum. These machine-washable pads fasten to the bottom of any Swiffer WetJet, and the thick microfiber will trap dirt and dust instead of pushing it into corners. Each pad lasts for at least 100 uses, so you’d be saving your eco-friendly friend quite a bit of money, too.

Buy it: Amazon

6. SodaStream for Sparkling Water; $69

A fondness for fizzy over flat water doesn’t have to mean buying it bottled. Not only does the SodaStream let you make seltzer at home, but it’s also small enough that it won’t take up too much precious counter space. SodaStream also sells flavor drops to give your home-brewed beverage even more flair—this pack from Amazon ($25) includes mango, orange, raspberry, lemon, and lime.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Washable Lint Roller; $13

Roller dirty.iLifeTech/Amazon

There’s a good chance that anyone with a pet (or just an intense dislike for lint) has lint-rolled their way through countless sticky sheets. iLifeTech’s reusable roller boasts “the power of glue,” which doesn’t wear off even after you’ve washed it. Each one also comes with a 3-inch travel-sized version, so you can stay fuzz-free on the go.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Countertop Compost Bin; $23

Like a tiny Tin Man for your table.Epica/Amazon

Even if you keep a compost pile in your own backyard, it doesn’t make sense to dash outside every time you need to dump a food scrap. A countertop compost bin can come in handy, especially if it kills odors and blends in with your decor. This 1.3-gallon pail does both. It’s made of stainless steel—which matches just about everything—and contains an activated-charcoal filter that prevents rancid peels and juices from stinking up your kitchen.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Fabric-Softening Dryer Balls; $17

Also great for learning how to juggle without breaking anything.Smart Sheep

Nobody likes starchy, scratchy clothes, but some people might like blowing through bottles of fabric softener and boxes of dryer sheets even less. Smart Sheep is here to offer a solution: wool dryer balls. Not only do they last for more than 1000 loads, they also dry your laundry faster. And since they don’t contain any chemicals, fragrances, or synthetic materials, they’re a doubly great option for people with allergies and/or sensitive skin.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Rechargeable Batteries; $40

Say goodbye to loose batteries in your junk drawer.eneloop/Amazon

While plenty of devices are rechargeable themselves, others still require batteries to buzz, whir, and change the TV channel—so it’s good to have some rechargeable batteries on hand. In addition to AA batteries, AAA batteries, and a charger, this case from Panasonic comes with tiny canisters that function as C and D batteries when you slip the smaller batteries into them.

Buy it: Amazon

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5 World War I-Era Tips for Celebrating Thanksgiving in Strange Times

Thanksgiving Day menu from November 1917 at Fort D. A. Russell in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Thanksgiving Day menu from November 1917 at Fort D. A. Russell in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
National World War I Museum and Memorial

The year 2020 has been one of hardships, sacrifices, and reimagined traditions. As the United States enters the holiday season with COVID-19 cases at a record high, this reality is more undeniable than ever.

Thanksgiving may look different for many people this year, but it won’t be totally unprecedented. Whether you’re connecting with people remotely, entertaining a smaller group, or trying out a new menu, you can find guidance in the records of Thanksgivings past.

As a 1918 newspaper article from the National World War I Museum and Memorial’s archives reads, “The thanks of the Yanks may differ this year from that of peace-time Novembers, but [...] the spirit of the day is always the same, however much the surroundings may differ."

Americans celebrating Thanksgiving at home and abroad during World War I had to deal with food shortages, being away from family, and, in 1918, a global pandemic. Mental Floss spoke with Lora Vogt, the World War I Museum’s curator of education, about what people making the best of this year’s holiday can learn form wartime Thanksgiving celebrations.

1. Mail Treats to Loved Ones.

Thanksgiving postcard from 1918.National World War I Museum and Memorial

Even when separated by great distances, families found ways to share food on Thanksgiving a century ago. “We have all of these letters from service members saying thanks for the candy, thanks for the cakes, thank you for the donuts—all of these foods they were sent from their loved ones when they couldn't be together,” Vogt tells Mental Floss.

If you're spending Thanksgiving apart from the people you love this year, sending them a treat in the mail can be a great way to connect from a distance. Just remember that not everything people mailed to each other during World War I belongs in a modern care package. “I would suggest you forgo the live chickens,” Vogt says. “The USPS has been through so much this year already.”

2. Try a New Recipe.

Food shortages made ingredients like sugar, wheat, and red meat hard to come by during World War I. In 1918, the U.S. government released a cookbook titled Win the War in the Kitchen, which featured ration-friendly recipes. Americans aren’t dealing with the same food shortages they saw during World War I (or even March 2020) this Thanksgiving, but an unconventional celebration could be the perfect excuse to recreate a dish from history. Some recipes from Win the War in the Kitchen that could fit into your Thanksgiving menu include corn fritters, lentil casserole, carrot pudding, Puritan turkey stuffing, and maple syrup cake with maple syrup frosting. You can find the full digitized version of the book at the National World War I Museum’s online exhibit.

3. Depart From Tradition.

This year is the perfect opportunity to break the rules on Thanksgiving. That means instead of sitting down to a stuffy dinner at a set time, you could enjoy a relaxed day of eating, drinking, and binge-watching. This excerpt from a 1918 letter written by serviceman James C. Ryan to his mother may provide some inspiration:

"Had Thanksgiven [sic] dinner at Huber's over in Newark. Collins was in Cleveland on a furlough and Huber and his wife was alone with me [...] Started off with a little champagne and I certainly did put away an awfull [sic] feed. Had several cold bottles during the day and after coming back from a movie we had a few and some turkey sandwiches."

“Starting off with a little champagne does not sound like a bad plan,” Vogt tells Mental Floss. “And it was very much a small pod. They have their variation of Netflix, and then turkey sandwiches at the end of the day. Certainly some similarities and some inspiration there.”

Thanksgiving festivities were also unconventional for soldiers serving overseas in World War I. While stationed "somewhere in France" on November 29, 1918, Hebert Naylor wrote to his mother describing a Thanksgiving with two big meals—and not a turkey in sight:

“We came back and had breakfast at 10 o’clock. It consisted of pancakes, syrup, bacon and coffee. We had the big dinner at 4:30 PM and I tell you it was quite a dinner to be served to so many men. It consisted of baked chicken, creamed corn, french fried potatoes, lettuce, pie, cake and coffee. This was the first pie and cake I had since I left home and believe me it tasted good.”

4. Find Normalcy Where You Can.

Thanksgiving 1918 for the 79th Aero Squadron at Taliaferro Field, Hicks, Texas.National World War I Museum and Memorial

No matter what your Thanksgiving looks like in 2020, making room for a couple of traditions can provide much-needed comfort in a year of uncertainty. Even people celebrating during wartime 100 years ago were able to incorporate some normalcy into their festivities. On November 29, 1917, serviceman Thomas Shook wrote about seeing a football game while at army training camp: “In the afternoon several of us went to the Army vs. Ill. U. football game. There sure was some crowd. Army lost the game first they have lost.”

Keeping some classic items on the menu is another way make the day feel more traditional. Army trainee Charles Stevenson wrote to his grandmother on Thanksgiving 1917: “We had about the best dinner I ever ate today—turkey, cranberry sauce and cranberries, fruit salad, mashed potatoes, gravy, dressing, tea and mine [sic] pie. Pretty fine eating for the soldier bosy [sic].”

5. Share What You’re Thankful For.

During the Great War’s darkest moments, some service members were still inspired to express gratitude when Thanksgiving rolled around. Thomas Shook wrote in a letter to his parents dated November 28, 1918 that after surviving the war, he had now escaped the Spanish Flu that was infecting many of the men he served with. Despite the hardships he endured, he was thankful to have been spared by the virus and be on his way home.

Wherever you are this Thanksgiving, sharing what you’re grateful for with loved ones—even if it’s by phone, Zoom, or a handwritten letter—is a simple way to celebrate the holiday.