Attend career fairs to develop professional skills, techniques
September 17, 2018
The fall Engineering Career Fair is a spectacle like no other. Eager-faced freshmen practice their ENG 100: Engineering Orientation-sponsored elevator pitches and stand in line to get rejected by a company looking for upperclassmen. Impeccable, impossibly patient recruiters remain undaunted by the prospect of six hours of dealing with engineering students. The deafening din of a thousand conversations happening at once only adds to the sensory overload of an impenetrable sea of black suit jackets and mediocre haircuts.
More than just the unavoidable panic that hits as soon as you walk into the crowded heat of the ARC, there’s a different kind of stress that surrounds the week of a career fair. There’s the existential dread: a direct result of seeing an example resume with that wicked 4.0 GPA along with a million awards and internships, and then trying to come up with something to fill that blank column under “relevant work experience.” And then, of course, there’s the general crushing fear of unemployment, which, in your sophomore year, isn’t unwarranted but is definitely premature.
All of this is only aggravated by the 3,000 emails that clog up your inbox when you’re just trying to keep yourself updated on the Piazza drama. Daily reminders about resume reviews, elevator pitch workshops and informal career fairs only serve to remind you of how woefully unprepared you are, not just for this career fair but for a future as a professional in your field.
Of course, the career fair is obviously an amazing resource to find internships and jobs, and a place to familiarize yourself with professional interactions. The real world is filled with roadblocks and stressors, both external and internal. The imposter syndrome brought on by loud, belligerent and obnoxiously intelligent men with an unfortunate amount of confidence isn’t going to go away, but the career fair is a great, low-stakes way to get used to it and to get over it.
The tensions and fears that a career fair dredges up aren’t always welcome, but that manufactured experience can help you gauge your own reactions to high-pressure, high-stakes interactions. Just like the career fair prep flyers say, it’s a good idea to practice on a company you’re not interested in before you give your elevator pitch to Google. Career fairs are a great way to practice handling the overwhelming anxieties that accompany a job search before it actually matters.
If you’re still an underclassman, though, there are still a few semesters left before the pressure truly intensifies. There’s a lot to come in the future, from research opportunities to more 400-level classes, that’ll boost your confidence and your resume.
Sandhya is a sophomore in LAS.