Your first career fair is to say the least, intimidating. Not only do you have to have to be assertive and prepared, but you must dress well and be ready to defend your liberal arts degree (which may possibly be the hardest part.)
The first career fair that I attended had booths geared towards business students. But being sure that I had something to contribute to a professional company, I walked up, assuming that the recruiter would stop and listen to what I had to say. They didn’t. One look at my nametag (which read English major) and they hurried me away with a pamphlet in one hand and defeat written all over my face. It’s easy for me to see the value in my degree, I could go on for hours telling how it makes me fit for any job. But there is such a stigma surrounding liberal arts degrees that I didn’t even have the opportunity to tell the recruiter my name. It’s widely accepted that with many liberal arts degrees, you either teach, or go to grad school. Not wanting to do either of those, I am trekking through a difficult time in my life as I begin to job search.
I left soon after my first booth, defeated and embarrassed. I’m not usually an assertive person but I quickly realized that I needed to assert myself if I wanted the recruiters to even look at me. So when the next career fair rolled around, I came more prepared for the reality of being an English major. Instead on waiting for the recruiter to ask me questions, I started off strong. I would say “I know that I am an English major, but I want to tell you about the many ways that my communicative and analytical skills will benefit your company.” I came into the conversation strong and kept my confidence throughout. If my confidence began to waiver, I saw that the recruiters would lose interest. If I couldn’t confidently tell them why my skills would benefit their company, they didn’t want to listen. That would be my best advice – stay confident. You as a liberal arts major have much to offer to any workplace, you just have to believe it yourselves. We may be stereotyped as people who simply read and write all day (which might be true), but think of all the other wonderful skills your degree has provided you with. I promise that when you write them down, you will be surprised by what you know.
If all of this is making you nervous, take heart in this truth – it gets better. Your first career fair is by far the hardest, and most intimidating. I don’t think I’ve ever sweated as much as I did walking up to each booth. But by your second, third, and even fourth career fair, you’re going to be better prepared and more aware of the reality of a career fair. And if nothing else, it is great preparation for future job interviews. The more practice you get now, the easier those interviews will be later on.
I’ve highlighted the hard truth of some career fairs, but I haven’t even gone over the best part. The best part by far is when you reach a booth that values your skills as an English major. The best part is having an intriguing and educational talk with someone who is genuinely interested in what you have to offer. Once you come to understand that there are people who value your degree, it makes you value it more yourself. Being in a community where your skills and experiences are valued is an incredible feeling – that is where you want to have a job. Because when you find a job that you love, it’s a career. It’s something you love. But to find that, you have to put yourself out there and face the tough booths. There are always going to be companies who don’t value what you do, so make them see how great your degree is! And if they still don’t care, go somewhere else. There is a place for you. You are not confined to teaching and grad school.