Career fairs are good practice for freshmen

Students+wait+patiently+in+line+to+talk+to+potential+employers+at+the+ACES+Career+Fair+at+the+ARC+on+Thursday%2C+October+6%2C+2016.

The Daily Illini File Photo

Students wait patiently in line to talk to potential employers at the ACES Career Fair at the ARC on Thursday, October 6, 2016.

By Grace Chiou, Columnist

Most freshmen walk into their first career fair not knowing what to expect. I had this experience myself at my last career fair. The reality of the situation hit me about a second after I finished (unsuccessfully) talking up the first recruiter I spoke to: I wasn’t exactly the type of candidate that recruiters are looking for.

Most recruiters specify they aren’t hiring freshmen, and those that are have extremely selective criteria. Of course, this is to be expected. Freshmen are, for the most part, just now learning how to balance daily living responsibilities with academic and extracurricular activities. The last thing they could possibly handle is a full-time internship or co-op at a local company, much less a nationally renowned one. And the last thing a company needs on its plate is to spend extra time and money training undergraduate freshmen recruits how to survive in the workforce.

So why do countless freshmen trek through the 90-degree-weather clad in proper business attire to attend career fairs around campus, even when their journey will most likely end with more of their resumes returning home than they gave out?

More often than not, it’s because attending a career fair is a mandatory, graded assignment in introductory courses for most freshmen.

Ironically, students are widely unprepared for such a life-defining event. Resumes are often hastily written and edited if you’re lucky. Elevator pitches are developed from a template and perhaps rehearsed once or twice on the day of the career fair.

Trying to pitch yourself to recruiters with a resume and an elevator pitch you know are sub-par and rusty will only give you so much feedback. Apart from experience, the only other thing a freshman can hope to gain is an internship application or job interview.

And since not all freshmen have had the dazzling opportunity to get their first internship before college or win a national competition, you can expect to return home with more water bottles and fidget spinners than interview offers.

Ultimately, career fairs are only as beneficial as you are prepared to make them. Even if you think you’re just wasting time handing out resumes you printed out a mere half-hour before, it may be good practice to speak to recruiters and get more comfortable with the idea of selling yourself.

While approaching recruiters at your very first career fair as an unprepared freshman is not exactly a moment you’ll look back on fondly years from now, you’ll be thanking yourself later — perhaps after your sophomore, junior, senior and maybe even graduate career fairs — for the practice you gave yourself as a freshman.

Grace is a freshman in DGS.

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