Recently, I attended my first two college career fairs with vastly different experiences after each one. Because the first career fair was a trial, there was significantly less pressure and I enjoyed myself. I was, however, required to attend the second career fair for the Professionalism course I am enrolled in; I found it much more daunting.
Notably, the first career fair’s focus was entirely different from the second; it was clearly targeted at Media, Communications, and Design majors. As an English major that can identify with these subject-areas, I found this fair much more receptive and welcoming. There were less than thirty companies represented which created an intimate setting, and I spoke to four or five of them. Each of the representatives were approachable, friendly, and open to seeing my potential as an English major regardless of their traditional search for certain disciplines. I particularly enjoyed speaking with the representatives of “Hog Radio,” a local radio station and ESPN affiliate.
The second career fair was not nearly as enjoyable or educational. Unlike the first, it was a more general fair and larger; the same spacious room I’d glided through with ease just a week prior was now packed to the brim with representatives and students. I walked in immediately intimidated by the significant change in volume.
When I saw a table of and representative for Verizon, I had to go for it. My Professionalism class has discussed this particular company enough to intrigue me, and I figured such a large, established company would perhaps have an entry-level job for a college graduate who’d never considered a career with Verizon before, but was interested.
I greeted the Verizon representative with a handshake and my nametag pinned to my shirt, optimistic. The tag simply stated my name and English Creative Writing major, but I watched his eyes lose their life instantly as he read it. The clearly disappointed words: “…English major, huh? We are looking for analytical minds here” followed immediately.
Quite insulted and taken aback at this man’s immediate assumption that an English major was not or could not be analytical, I responded with what I know best, a social experiment, a joke. It was less of a lie, more of a story. I responded: “Oh, this name tag is wrong. I’m actually a double major, English and Business.” While I recognize that this is not the best way to get a job, the experience from that point on taught me a lot about how many businesses perceive different areas of studies. The representative’s demeanor changed instantly and totally—it was night and day. Michael Reynolds the English major had had no chance at Verizon, but Michael Reynolds the English/Business major could have been the future of Verizon’s Tulsa office as far as the representative was concerned.
That Michael Reynolds was going places. He was worth his time.
Sadly, Michael Reynolds the Business/English major doesn’t exist. I left the Verizon table and once again became Michael Reynolds the English major, a soon to be college graduate who is hungry all of the time, has student loans, and needs a job. My experience throughout the rest of the second career fair didn’t really pan out. I spoke with several other companies and institutions without finding any standouts that captured real interest. Even after speaking to no less than ten representatives that day, nothing clicked. It became increasingly obvious that the representatives were tiring after a long day and showed less and less enthusiasm as the fair went on.
The second career fair wasn’t entirely disappointing however. The tenth and final person I spoke to, a Navy recruiter, was bar-none the best representative I spoke to that day. He was friendly, more than willing to see the potential of my English major and work with it, and willing to follow up with me the following week. While a career in the armed services isn’t ideal for a pacifist like myself, I believe the other companies at the career fair could stand to learn a lot from the Navy’s recruitment style.
Perhaps just treating people like people is the best selling point.
Overall, despite my lack of success in finding a job, attending these two career fairs was an interesting and positive experience. The challenges were daunting, but I dove in and learned a lot from them. I learned to have an open mind and to be communicative.
(I also learned that it’s best not to lie about being a double major.)
The latter is a lesson I did not think needed to be taught.