5 Tricks for Having Fun at a Career Fair

General Motors at the World's Fair
World's Fair; like a job fair but more . . . authentic.

This week is CMU students have 3 days of job fairs, with everyone from Etsy to Boeing recruiting us Tartans. The EOC, TOC, and BOC can be grueling death marches, an equal assault on one’s soul and one’s sole. Because most non-profits find the costs both in booth rental and lost staff time are too great to recruit at job fairs, my pickings can be slim at job fairs.

But I enjoy job fairs, for the most part, in moderation. Here’s how I survive:

  1. Practice on recruiters you don’t want to hire. I love chatting with smaller start-ups, getting my pitch warmed up and ready to go for the companies I am interested in.
  2. Explore career options by pitching your skills to companies outside of your immediate field. I don’t do well pitching myself for a job I don’t want, but it expands my mind and understanding of my own employability to try and think how my writing skills might translate in an advertising company.
  3. Use what is mountainously-stressful experience for others as an opportunity to show yourself grace under pressure. No matter how many dude’s in tight-fitting suits elbow you on their way to JP Morgan, practice being nice. It’s a spiritual exercise, since no one will notice but you. But you’ll know.
  4. Have real conversations with recruiters. At most job fairs, there’s a feast-famine thing going on for recruiters. Many students cluster around big names, leaving recruiters sitting behind a huge stack of brochures and crazily-piled toys. They’re people too, and may appreciate the chance to chat. I had a wonderful 15 minute chat with a recruiter from a top 20 law firm who was looking for engineers to help out in the patent office, but who is also a huge copyright nerd (like me). I also got solid career advice from a bored Department of Homeland Security employee looking for people to help build a bio-metric identification system for border control.
  5. Collect chachkies–as long as you’re polite to the recruiter, no harm in coming away with a horde of pens and stuffies. This can lead to excess: when I packed up my old room, I found I owned a full box of conference crud. Which I then had to store. And unpack.
All things in moderation, even career fairs.

Inspirational Quote:

“If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.”–Frank A. Clark

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