This is what it’s like to go to a career fair. I know this because I went to one today. Though I printed five resumes, gave two, and then decided that I might not be cut out for this networking thing, I did come up with a long stream of thoughts while waiting in line (what line? Stay tuned).
There are lots of animal metaphors I could use right now to set the scene, but I’ll stick to my favorite. Think of rats looking for cheese, any cheese, except there’s not enough cheese, even the bad cheese is deceptively, expensively, richly stinky, and there’s way too many rats.
This is how it starts.
You stand in line upwards of 40 minutes to talk to one medium-to-big-shot company of the many placed in five-feet square pods lined around a three floor auditorium. The idea is that once there (at the end of the line and the beginning to the rest of your life), you presumably take the stage and knock their (a faceless, weirdly attractive recruiter’s) socks off, except they are just as tired and as human as you are, and probably somewhere near the bottom of the company food chain if they’re standing in one spot for three hours talking to hundreds of earnest but altogether unremarkably blurry (and not completely to our own faults, remember, 40 minute wait times) students dressed in a variety of business casual clothing that may or may not be too big/too small, all at various washes of black, navy and tan (disclaimer: I wore a floral blouse and a Free People skirt and high top converse that look dirty on the outside and have started to become plain uncomfortable on the inside). Meanwhile, that guy from physics is actually trés hot in the off-season Ralph Lauren color-coordinated button down/relaxed suit look, and you’re only a little bit surprised.
Anyway, you get to the front of the line (if you’re like me (calculating, conniving, a planner), you beeline to that one company that you’ve had your eye on and make sure that you’re in the front so you don’t have to waste precious life minutes standing in an endless line of robotic humanoids all bored but all kind of scared because adulthood is fast approaching and opportunity seems to be literally right at the end of the depressed looking rainbow), and when you introduce yourself in a 8.5 by 11 piece of printer paper (or if you’re extra, crisp white card stock) that you’ve slid into a folder that also contains your math homework from last week, there really is nothing to talk about. Why? Because the fundamental law of a successful conversation is that you have a real interest in getting to know Sally, and Sally feels the same way about you. And all of this, before you’ve even stepped within spitting distance of Sally (who, by the way, is not a celebrity but most likely a person 4 to 5 years older than you and, when you ask, will tell you that they feel old. These Sallys, they were in the exact same position you are currently in, but are now on the giving end of the infinite loop), who is jabbering on at the landing terminal of this bizarre, avoidable manmade traffic congestion, is a huge, delusional farce and the equation is moot. Mediocre conversation about things listed on resume ensues, or things listed in your head beforehand because of pre-networking prep, strained throats, fake smiles, faker laughter, and all of this culminates before both parties have to come up with a synchronized exit strategy to pretend like the thing that just happened was real, except it wasn’t, it was fake and exhausting and something you might have to do four to five more times within the course of the evening as people become more and more tired and more and more fake. This is why there are at least ten water bottles on every company pod (which is the least our tuition could do, considering those squares of space cost a few hundred dollars) so recruiters can rehydrate their dried raisinette souls.
And then it’s over.
You’ve weaseled your paper self into the stacks and stacks of other paper selves and everyone has made their mark on a big pile of paper people. And by this point you understand why most college parties have alcohol. If it’s a sober gathering, that could only possibly mean one thing: networking event. And if you find yourself going to one in the near future it’s because that despite it all, when you lace up your shoes, spend a little too much time obsessing over the font size of your resume (is it even readable at this point?) or how the serifed typeface you’ve been told to choose has completely erased the idea that you could be a fun person, there still lingers a hope that something could come out of this. And that the last two hours of your life were worth it because within six months time you’ll be in a high rise office building in New York City, or San Francisco, or somewhere nicer than where you are now, thinking about which of the several hip, kind-pricey-but-it’s-ok-I’m-a-working-woman restaurants you’d like to go to with your new, equally as accomplished college-aged coworkers. You’ll be staring out the window into a city skyline while persuading yourself to get back to work because after all, the work you’re doing has got to be important, or enlightening, educational at least. Because if it’s none of the above, why did you have to wait in line and pass two screening interviews and rise to the top of the paper people stack just to stare out the window on a Wednesday morning? Just kidding, you’re in a cubicle, there are no windows. But through it all, the idea that you are important because you have potential to do something great is irresistible, and truth be told, not entirely untrue. And if the future of your fully unlocking your potential starts with just some toe-pinching dress shoes and a typo-free one-pager, and especially if you’re surrounded by friends/acquaintances/smart, like-minded (ie: scared, aimlessly competitive, clueless) peers doing the same thing, then you can swing it too. You’re hot on the cheese.
Why the hell not?
Hi, I’m Alice.
XOXO, I’m back,
Please laugh. This was supposed to be funny.