Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Real Deal: Why I Attended the Career Fair as a Senior, and Why You (Really) Should Too

For those of you who have faithfully followed my meteoric rise to blog fame from my humble beginnings as a sophomore, you may recall one of the first posts I ever wrote: it dealt with my first Career Fair, which I attended in the fall of my freshman year. Reading through that post, I can sense the anxiety and general confusion that pretty much characterized my first few years at Tufts when it came to career planning and general thoughts about the future. A lot has changed since then, and while my future is still not entirely defined, I like to think that I've gained a little bit more expertise when it comes to Career Fairs - especially when it comes to unfolding those plastic tablecloths (working for the Career Center will give you all kinds of weird skills).

This week, having just attended the 2017 Spring Career Fair last Friday, I thought I'd pay homage to that post I wrote back in 2014, not only in the title of this post but in a similar Q&A format as well. While my old post featured more "nuts and bolts" questions for a Career Fair rookie, I think I'll dedicate this one to future seniors who attend the Career Fair, with the hopes of gaining some networking connections or even a full-time job. Here's a true-to-life account of my last Tufts Career Fair.
Older me (right) looking at younger me (left). (All this reminiscing has got me nostalgic, which is probably why I've been watching so much season 1 Glee lately.)
Who should I talk to?

Short answer: as many people as you can. Longer, more realistic answer: do your research beforehand to figure this out. Look on Jumbo Jobs or download the "Tufts Career Fair Plus" smartphone app to get a list of companies in attendance - you can even search by position type, field of industry, or desired majors. Narrow down a list of companies you're interested in, and try to hit as many of their tables as you can. A frequent comment I get when talking to students in the Career Center is that "there's no one at the Career Fair who I'd be interested in working for." Don't be took quick to assume this, however. Last week at the Fair, I started a conversation with a representative from Harvard Medical School, and when I told her I was interested in clinical research positions, her first response was "Oh, I don't know if we have any of those." At first I was disappointed, but immediately after that she offered to take a copy of resume and pass it on to other recruiters in clinical research departments. You never know how a conversation will go until you actually have it.

What should I say?

At every Career Fair before this most recent one, I had a pretty similar elevator pitch. It went something like, "Hi, I'm Sean, I'm a freshman/sophomore/junior majoring Biopsychology and Community Health, I'm interested in exploring research in a public health or biomedical setting, are there any internships available that I should look into?" Now that my internship search days are behind me, I've had to modify this script a little bit. Years of working Career Fairs, and speaking unofficially with lots of employers, has taught me a lot about the ideal Career Fair student. In general, I've come to find that recruiters are looking for articulate, personable people with a pretty clear idea of what they want to do both short-term and long-term. This can be a daunting thought for some seniors (myself included), but there are ways to express your goals while also conveying your uncertainty. Last week, I found myself saying something like this: "Hi, I'm Sean, I'm a senior majoring in Biopsychology and Community Health. I'm interested in going to graduate school someday, but I really want to gain experience in clinical research before pursuing a higher degree. Do you know of any openings that could be of interest to me?" I like to think this is a little more polished, but remains true to my interests and plans for the future.
Channel your inner Rachel when it comes to Career Fair preparation.

But really, will I actually get a job out of this?

In true SWUG fashion, I find myself embracing cynicism more and more every day. So I totally get this question. But, then I remind myself that I'd never actually applied to one of those internship postings I got in an email blast before I got my internship at Brigham and Women's. Working in the Career Center, I hear from both students and employers about lots of internships and jobs that came from a visit to the Career Fair! So, I need to remember not to discount the Career Fair before I've really given it a chance. The only way you'll get a job out of the Career Fair is if you go and give it your all. (*leads team in morale-boosting locker room chant*)

So, it's with a single tear rolling down my cheek and a craving for coffee and sandwiches from Dave's Fresh Pasta that I bid farewell to the Tufts Career Fairs. Realistically, I will probably be back, because the Career Center is never ever ever getting rid of me (pardon the musical reference, but I saw Waitress on Broadway last weekend and couldn't not incorporate it into a post). To the future seniors reading this, I hope you attend the Career Fair this fall and/or next spring, and make the most out of one of the Career Center's biggest and best resources for Tufts students every semester. And if nothing else, you'll get tons of free water bottles and key chains.

Seriously, go see Waitress. It'll change you.

Until next time,
Sean Boyden
Class of 2017