Grown-ups are people, too

By Samuel Kottoor, Columnist

Growing up, I was frequently asked the question: What do you want to do when you’re older? I would not have answered the question with such excitement and certainty if I knew career fairs were what facilitated the growing-up process.

Career fairs used to scare the life out of me. You walk into a room full of sweaty, tired and job-hungry students who are all 10 times more qualified than you to even run a lemonade stand. There are lines of tables as far as the eye can see. Each table is manned with uniformed adults representing a company, who all have the power to leave you jobless for the upcoming summer.

Lines of students at each booth congest the spaces in between. As you wait in line for as long as you would wait for a roller coaster, without the fun of actually riding the roller coaster, your head races with what you might say. The longer you are in line, the more nervous you get.

It’s finally your turn.

You go to shake their hand, miss and learn what a thumb feels like at that angle. You have to start talking. The silence was definitely unnaturally long.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

“Pretty windy in here, don’t you think?”

“Sorry, we don’t take sophomores who have resumes as bad as this.”

“That’s OK, thank you so much for this experience!”

And then you get the funk out of there.

This is exactly how it used to go for me. Until I completely changed my attitude. I was forgetting something extremely crucial: Grown-ups are people, too.

I know it’s crazy, but hear me out. It never really occurred to me that adults are just older, more experienced, kids. So, I started going into career fairs with a whole different approach. Instead of viewing these people as adult humans, I just looked at them as human-humans, and used the tactics on them I would normally use on any other person I’ve ever met: I tried to make a friend.

I believe this strategy is the best way to go about career fairs and events of this nature. When I started trying it out, things immediately started looking up for me. I approached each company representative with a warm smile, not the creepy please-give-me-a-job smile, and said something silly or lighthearted. I constantly kept in mind that I wasn’t trying to get a job, but I was just trying to make a friend. This mindset eliminated any semblance of nervousness in my body. The conversations became more pleasant and fun.

By the end of the career fair, I wasn’t completely depressed about the lack of interest in my professional career. I was elated by all the fun conversations with new friends I had that day. Career fairs normally leave me drained of all energy, but I now leave them with high amounts of energy, happy to be alive.

I encourage all of you who are scared of career fairs to try this approach of just trying to make a friend. I promise it will only bring good things.


I still don’t have an internship for this summer, so what do I know?

Samuel is a junior in Engineering. 

[email protected]