September 4, 2017

KANKANHALLI | How to Fare Well at Career Fair

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Career Fair is this week, and it’s my chance to shine (and yours too!). I don’t know if I’ll shine brightly, given that 500+ eager Cornellians will join me in attendance, but try I must. Since preparation is key, I neglected my course assignments all weekend long to redo my resume — that is, to make it more closely resemble the standard template that every career-minded individual also follows. Now, I look pretty good on resume paper ($20 well spent!). It seems counterintuitive to conform in hopes of being distinct, but standardization is the nectar of the H.R. Gods. Without further ado, here’s Step 1 in conquering Career Fair: extract all color and personality from your resume; become a corporate zombie. I promise — my most successful friends have the most lifeless resumes.

Next, you have to drop all other commitments between 10:00 AM and 3:30 PM. Classes are never cancelled for Career Fair, and this places us in a bit of a pickle…which brings me to Step 2: prioritize job/internship over education. In years past, I’ve hesitated to skip class for Career Fair, cowering in the flawed logic that I need a solid foundation and skill-set to enter the workforce. Thankfully, I’ve gained some wisdom since then, and my conscience has been pleasantly quiet. After all, what’s a quest for knowledge without a tangible and sustainable reward?

Last year, Career Fair was split between three different locations, in some ways redirecting traffic, but in other ways, forcing me to develop a strategy to interact with firms. This year, Career Fair is back in Barton Hall, and the beautiful chaos is restored. Day One features Engineering and Technical Employers, and Day Two features…all the rest. Luckily, the former category encapsulates my interests, so I’m not offended by this clearly partisan structure, but if you are, my friend, follow Step 3: pursue a career in STEM and let the social sciences rot, even in the face of staggering evidence for the value of humanities.

Career Fair is a glorified flea market, just hold the friendly banter and affordable goods and add the visceral need to dominate. I’m the flea, buzzing politely to the tune of action verbs, and the market barters in egos and experience. If I extend this analogy any further, I would have to confront the fact that fleas always get swatted, so I’ll end here, but not before sharing Step 4: don’t be an annoying flea — stay back, lay low, don’t pester the recruiters, and let the opportunities come to you.

The Fair seems like a nice venue for a quarter-life crisis (reserve now — spots go fast!), but it’s exactly where you need to be to realize your potential. Students dole out resumes like hot potatoes, and employers aggressively swipe right on candidates for interviews — it’s recruitment heaven. Granted, the ventilation is awful and death by asphyxiation is only a shuddering gasp away, but are we so prissy that we would refuse to sacrifice some air for a lifetime supply of income and benefits? Luckily, I’m able to look past the small inconveniences and see into the kind and generous soul of Career Fair.

Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life, courtesy of Career Fair. A life brimming with ambition, motivation, and passion…for the first five minutes, anyway. As the sixth minute strikes, the vitality of youth makes way for disinterest, gloom and boredom. A few existential questions appear on stage — why am I here? Why am I wearing an ill-fitting pantsuit, standing in a queue with a tight smile and a bulky, over-assertive padfolio (aside: is it a folder? is it a notebook?) that is compensating for a lack of substantial content when I could’ve been at home in sweats? What is my purpose?

Those are all valid questions, and some folks answer them by declining to attend Career Fair. These folks are doing just fine, making six-figure salaries and changing the world and whatnot. It’s almost as if there are better ways to find employment — networking with real employees and fostering organic relationships, or better yet, letting your actual credentials pave the way…but that approach is iffy; I’m not sold.

So, with hope in my heart, firmness in my handshake and, if God wills it, lasting oxygen in my lungs, I’m going to enter the arena that is Career Fair on September 6, 2017. The odds are far from promising, but as Ms. Mavis “Power Ball” Wanczyk might agree, you have to buy a ticket to win the lottery. Step 5: see you there!


Priya Kankanhalli is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]Matters of Fact appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.