Like most social science majors graduating in the spring, I’m screwed. I have two job prospects, one involves a restaurant and balancing a large tray, but neither is anything I’d like to do for more than six months after graduation. My largest problem with my infinitely broad liberal arts education is that I now have increased my aptitude for â€˜critical thinking’ so much that I am utterly overwhelmed with the possible careers that I could pursue. On the other hand, I have no marketable skills. So, in order to attempt to narrow the field, I attended the Career Fair.
The fair was upstairs in the University Center, crammed into the Chesapeake rooms. Walking into the huge space crammed full of eagerness gave the strange impression of a science fair gone horribly wrong. Representatives of innumerable companies stood at tables with poster boards and free pens to attract passers-by, while students in suits walked around and observed the exhibits. Some representatives wore suits to give their company an air of authority. Others wore jeans either because they wanted to relate to the young adults looking for jobs, or they knew that we were desperate and didn’t care what impression they gave off. The sad thing is that that assumption is not too far off; I didn’t care what the representative looked like as long as they wanted to give me a job.
Unlike popular opinion, not every company was looking for business majors. I think that the Career Fair gets a bad reputation for catering to business majors. This year there seemed to be a good number of companies not looking for business majors. They weren’t looking for Art History majors either, though, so I was none the better. But this year the Associated Press was going to be there, so I was psyched. I had prepared for how I was going to present myself to this prestigious news organization so that by the time I walked away from their table they were going to put my resume on the top of their pile with a big star on it and call me the next day to offer me a great job that would be infinitely fulfilling. I was ready to prove to them that they couldn’t possibly function without me on their staff. I searched up and down the aisles for the table with the high-powered reporters. I got pulled aside by representatives from other companies whose names I couldn’t pronounce for jobs in fields I had never heard of. I was sidetracked by cool pens and free candy. I finally got all the way around the room, and the Associated Press was nowhere to be found. They just hadn’t shown up. The Career Services people said that they were snowed in. Maybe they were traveling from Minnesota. Or maybe they thought “snowed in” sounded better than “we don’t want to come”. Either way, it meant that the one company that could have used my only real skill besides serving food wasn’t there.
From the rest of the companies, I got the new twenty-first century brush off, “Visit our website and apply online.” Now representatives can smile to your face, shake your hand, ask your GPA, and move on to worthier candidates by telling you to “apply online.” It’s a lot easier than saying “That is your GPA and you bothered showing up to the Career Fair? Shouldn’t you be practicing your burger flipping somewhere?”
I suppose that the Career Fair was informative in a mediocre sort of way. I saw what kinds of businesses are recruiting college students. I practiced my handshaking skills. And maybe there were some students that came away from it with real job prospects. I think I know some of those people. Their initials are Business Majors. I walked away from the Career Fair with a kick-ass new pen.
Alice McKeon is a DSJ staff columnist. Her views do not necessarily represent those of the entire staff.