I remember Roadshows in the 1980s.

I didn’t care if the Tories were worrying about the lack of a feelgood factor. I knew the economy is improving. It wasn’t the increased weight of the adverts in Freelance Informer, it’s more than that. I’d seen the adverts for the first Contractors’ Roadshow of the economic spring.

Perhaps some of the younger lads and lasses don’t remember that far back. It was in the balmy days of the last boom, when Mrs Thatcher’s cabinet still only ran to one wife apiece, jobs were plentiful, and for only 5p in the drinks machine you could still get a plastic cup full of plastic tea.

Every so often a group of agencies would submerge their normal healthy incestuous hostility, and club together to hire a hall for a Contractors’ Roadshow. Sometimes it would be in some city centre hotel, or more often in one of the posh hotel-cum-conference centres that live off the managerial business meetings near the Airport. Either way it was something special, an experience to be treasured on your road through life.

I still remember my first one. It was in town, in the big Coop building. I was working 35 miles away at the time, but it wasn’t too far out of my way home, and the publicity lured me with its promise of rich contracts. I was tempted, and I fell.

Despite the more cynical views of other freelancers, most agents aren’t that bad. Some of them are almost human, although of course you might not want one in the family. What I met at the Roadshow was something quite different though.

They were prowling outside the front door, a pack of female persons designed to comfirm the prejudices of the worst male chauvinist ever. Dressed alike in microskirts, low necklines, and plasticly sincere voices, they clustered round the new arrivals (well the male ones anyway) asking for cv’s.

I had to admire their courage, dressed like that. It was late November, very cold and very windy. The trouble is, they didn’t seem to know anything about the job. More silicone than silicon, you might say. They could usually remember the name of their agency, and were very good at saying breathily things like “I’m sure we’ve lots of positions that would interest you”, but they never seemed to know what words like “Analyst” or “JCL” actually meant. I’m not even sure they understood their own double entendres.

In fairness they weren’t all female. I’m not sure if it was because they wanted to have something to attract the female contractors, or just because “Rent-a-Bimbo” operates an equal opportunity policy, but there were a few male bimbos as well. At least they didn’t dress in quite such an exhibitionist fashion, they ran to acne, overly new suits, which fitted excessively well, and greased-back hair.

I’m not qualified personally to assess the effect of the acne brigade on the average female, but to judge from the comments of my lady collegues present it didn’t seem to make their bosoms heave excessively. I am qualified to comment on the females, they were certainly eyecatching; they also made me want to run and hide somewhere safe, like the gents, something to do with subconcious fears of harpies I think.

Harpies or not, they were inside the hall as well. Everywhere I turned another young lady, with makeup as thick as her eyelashes were long, would be pressing her clipboard and other assets against me and begging for my name and phone number.

I think I was supposed to feel flattered by all this attention. To be honest I just felt irritated. It wasn’t a matter of stereotyping or whatever the politically correct types call it. After all no one forced the bimbos (male and female) to do it. I just felt annoyed that anyone should think I’m so thick or so sexually frustrated that a dollop of erotic turnon and I’m anyone’s.

After a few minutes I did have second thoughts though, I decided I should be glad that some agencies did see fit to use the dolly-birds and -blokes. At least it made it easier for me to spot the competent professional agencies.

I don’t know if they do Roadshows any more, or whether they’ve changed their approach or not. I believe they still do it at the motor show with dolly birds over the new cars, although I’m informed that they are only provided for the day when the press photographers come.

I still found Roadshows useful however. Even the most bimbo-ridden events had some worthwhile agencies there. Just look for something in either comfortably worn suits (if male) or tastefully practicable skirt, blouse and jacket with minimum makeup (if female). You go up to them, greet them politely, and talk briefly but intelligently to them.

That’s all I ever did, and it worked! They’re going to meet dozens of people every Roadshow. Most of them will be average, some will be idiots, a fair number will be sex-starved twits drooling down someone’s implanted cleavage. If I could in 2 minutes establish myself in that agent’s mind as a rational, reliable man, and leave them with my card and a well-written cv, then I’d maximised my chances of them giving me a call one day. Equally by presenting themselves as a straightforward professional outfit, employing people for their competence, not their chest expansion, the agency gets credability in my eyes.

That’s more financially viable than relying on glamour girls. I was there to make money. I wanted contacts with worthwhile knowledgeable agents, not with people who cheapen my profession by such tactics. In fact I think I was quite glad the other sort of agency did employ the bimbos, it made it so much easier for me to avoid them.

 Posted by at 12:24 am

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