The Chronicles of My First Career Fair

I’m terrified of career fairs. The suits, the handshaking, the walking-in-heels business? Not for me. In fact, I had been avoiding the emails for over a week. They had been more and more frequent as the day got closer, and so yesterday I finally cracked (the whole “needing a future career” thing finally got to me). So I updated my resume, squeezed into my pencil skirt, and packed my fancy business-lady bag: I was ready.

By the time I got to the HUB there were many thoughts racing through my mind: Oh my god, it’s really hot in here. Why is it so hot? Will there be a place for my coat? What do I do with my coat? I actually made an effort to look nice today. I’ll be dammed if they can’t see it because of my stupid coat. I’m so uncomfortable right now. Why am I wearing something I can’t sit down/breathe in? Thank god I wore flats — at least I don’t have to worry about falling down. Am I going to have to shake people’s hands? I’m sick — how do you politely decline shaking hands without looking like an asshole? Okay, I don’t want to look like an asshole. I’ll just shake their hands anyways. They probably use hand sanitizer in between. They know what they’re getting into.

careerfair

I walked up to the table outside Alumni Hall, ready to bolt at the first sign of a possible embarrassing situation. The nice girl at the table had me swipe my student ID, and this fancy name tag that read “Caitlin Simpson: Human Dev/Fmly Stds” printed out like magic. I felt pretty legit as I put it on, even if they did have to awkwardly abbreviate my major because it wouldn’t fit on the tag. She also gave me a map of all the employer booths along with a nifty tote bag to collect papers and brochures the booths gave you, which was a nice gesture even though carrying around a reusable shopping bag while dressed up in my fancy business casual kind of cramped my style. Before I went in I filled my bag with an exorbitant number of pens from the registration table, happy that the random assortment of free swag was already putting my mind at ease. ALRIGHT! HUMAN DEV/FMLY STDS! LET’S DO THIS. I took a deep breath, and was in.

The first thing I noticed was there there was indeed a coat rack. I immediately took advantage of it, which gave me a chance to look around. The People to People fair was set up like the club fairs are at the beginning of every semester. This was a really nice set up, especially to career fair virgins like me, because I could casually amble down the aisles and stop at any booth that was interesting to me. Definitely a low-pressure situation.

Besides the scary Girl Scout representative that cornered me while I was trying to pass by unseen (and who didn’t offer me any of the cookies they had displayed on the table — rude), my experience passed with little to no incident/embarrassment at all. I got to meet with the few companies I was interested in, and found some interesting internships I didn’t even know existed. Overall it was a pretty pleasant experience, and I’m glad I went. After my first experience, I decided to collect a couple of tips from the things I noticed and experienced personally (that way you can feel more prepared than I did).

Tips for Career Fair Virgins

  • Wear comfortable shoes. This is a low-stakes environment, so you can leave your Catwoman heels at home. I felt more confident and comfortable in my flats, and only a couple of girls looked at me weird. Unless you have the heel-walking abilities of Beyoncé, there’s really no point to put yourself through the trouble.
  • Update your resume and bring several copies. While I might have gone a bit overboard with 15, make sure you have enough copies of your resume depending on how many booths you are planning to visit. You don’t want to have someone ask you for one, only to be forced into awkwardly pretending you gave out the last one because you’re clearly a hot commodity when you actually never brought any at all. Or you could be super fancy and bring business cards. I’m pretty sure they give you bonus points if you have business cards.
  • Be yourself. I know people tell you that you need an “elevator speech” or some sort of quick introduction prepared for these things, but I honestly didn’t run into a situation where this was appropriate. This isn’t a formal interview, just walk up and say “hi.” The rest will just flow from there.
  • Hopefully sharing my awkward experience won’t just be worthless public shaming, but will actually help you out the first (or next) time you visit the career fair.
  • Take all of the free shit.

Happy hunting!

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About the Author

Catie Simpson

Catie is a junior majoring in Human Development and Family Studies. She's also the resident townie and culinary enthusiast due to a brief stint at the CIA (the culinary school not the secret government agency). She currently works at a Baby Temperament Lab on campus where she tries to get babies to do dangerous things. She's also on the twitter.

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