HOW TO SURVIVE CAREER FAIR BIAS

For many students, the career fair unlocks the door into the professional world; it’s their key to connections and nailing a first job. It makes sense- companies send out their most outgoing and young employees to scope out the most intelligent and prepared college individuals. Great conversations are made, business cards exchanged, and students walk away with another connection to add to their growing network, some even a first interview. In a lot of ways I can see how this career fair helps a student get their name out there, but to be honest I do not think it deserves the hype that so many people give it.

For one thing, I felt that the fair was particularly biased towards certain majors. The business school students, though extremely bright and competitive, were definitely the top choice amongst recruiters. Many booths I approached flat out told me they were looking for finance or accounting majors. Having to wear a label with your major plastered across your chest is something I don’t think should continue to be implemented. I believe a person should not be judged according to his or her major, but in fact on how that individual interacts and engages with a recruiter and the impression that is made from that conversation. Though a student majoring in history may not have the mathematical background compared to one who majored in accounting and business marketing, that student still deserves the chance to talk to recruiters from any and every company. Being turned down before you even get a chance to sell yourself is a hard pill to swallow when you’re beyond nervous to approach a booth. As a journalism major, I experienced this quite a few times during the few hours that I was at the fair. Though I felt a bit discouraged, it did not stop me from approaching various booths. After all, I had dressed up, made several copies of my resume, and researched the companies I was interested in for a reason.

To say that the fair was not helpful in the least bit would be a stretch. I gained invaluable experience about approaching people and essentially bragging about my credentials. It’s a tough experience, as I often feel uncomfortable boasting about my strengths and skills. Even though I had prepared a go-to speech with opening lines about my internship and background, I stammered over my words and struggled with maintaining eye contact. Knowing your capabilities and demonstrating confidence are two crucial aspects to “selling yourself” and successfully nailing a lasting first impression. Though journalism students may have not been the pick of the bunch at this career fair, I still walked away with lessons learned about the professional world and myself. From watching other students and the interactions made, I learned about my own weaknesses and for the first time realized how competitive the business world is. In the end, I did manage to snag a first interview, and I now have a follow-up phone interview with in the upcoming week.

Back to my main point: I don’t think the career fair makes or breaks a senior’s first job out of college. Yes, it is important to go and see what comes of it. However, if nothing promising emerges, I think it’s important not to get discouraged. Of course, I am only just starting to embark upon my first career search and am by no means an expert on the subject. But from my own experience so far, I can say that it wasn’t extremely earth shattering, nor did I feel like it landed me my first job. I think this job search is reflected entirely on the student. It is the student’s job to do the research, to call the companies, to make connections, to set up informational interviews, etc. Yes, this is a network society that we are living in and sometimes connections do get you the job. A hard work ethic, perseverance and drive can never hurt, though. If a company sees your persistence and passion, many times this alone lands an interview. As I continue on this journey, I am going to try to keep this in mind. Somewhere, somehow, I hope that my Type A personality and competitive tendencies work in my favor.

Lauren Ayala
Senior at University of Wisconsin-Madison
Studying Journalism and Strategic Communication with a certificate in Global Cultures

Lauren is a dedicated marathon runner, writer and avid reader. She loves staying active, has an appreciation for traveling, and a strong passion for eating and cooking healthy. Very driven, talkative, detail-oriented and upbeat, Lauren is now Head of her Sorority’s recruiting process which is well underway at The University of Wisconsin-Madison.

You can read her first post on "Senior Confessions - How to Prepare for the Real World" on Digital Distortion here.

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