Career fairs: are they really meant for everyone?

By Emma Cottrell Oct 4, 2019

The Career Fair: the annual event in which videos are shared, emails are massed and flyers are poured out of crop dusters.

The hype surrounding this event overwhelms every aspect of our lives for one chaotic week, but with all of the advertising and money spent is the Career Fair really a great opportunity for everyone?

I had the privilege of going to the ISU Career Fair which is open to non-ISU students.

I confidently walked in and signed into the fair only to be submerged in a sea of suits.

Before coming I looked through the list of 170 organizations and businesses that would be there.

I understood most of the representatives at this ‘business’ fair would be finance, sales, and insurance companies.

But this was not a total loss as an English major specializing in editing.

There were a few companies that I was looking forward to talking about editorial positions at larger corporations, summer internships with universities and human resources positions in smaller sales companies. 

It became abundantly clear this was not the place for me as most of the representatives did not seem overly interested in what I had to offer.

Representatives gave me ‘the look’ and the feigned interest that all English majors have experienced at one point or another when they tell people their major.

They circled my major in damning red ink and tossed the resume on the table with the rest.

 “It became abundantly clear this was not the place for me…”

I have heard all of the jokes before but this not only made me question why I chose to come to the fair but if my post-graduate job search would play out similarly just because of my major, and if there were any alternatives to this recurring nightmare.

The only options at career fairs for students cannot solely consist of data analysts and financial advisors. 

But I do understand why the ISU Career Fair is more business geared as the school itself has promoted their connections to large corporations like Caterpillar, John Deer and State Farm.

This idea that someone with an English background cannot work in a business environment stems from a field saturated with individuals with business backgrounds that have misconceptions of what English majors can do. 

One alternative is to diversify the types of companies showcased at career fairs.

Rather than be filled to the brim with a redundancy of opportunities to work in insurance and finance, shake it up with career paths like journalism, editing and media/public relations.

Opt to host companies looking for grant writers and positions in human resources and communications.

Along with being exclusive, this hyper-focus on business-oriented fields feels impractical as it could inflate the amount of applicants for these positions, increasing competition for jobs. 

Maybe career fairs as a concept are not meant to be geared towards those pursuing jobs in the humanities.

If that is the case, there are many alternatives to fairs that English majors and others in the humanities can utilize to achieve their goals.

Get in touch with faculty and alumni to create connections in fields of interest, go to events that match your interests, make an appointment with the Hart Career Center and explore the opportunities for internships and jobs and create a Handshake and LinkedIn profile to help employers find you.

Turn away from the small amount of options at career fairs and make job hunting about people meeting people. 

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