The 8 Emotional Stages of Career Fairs

CareerFair.JPonte1-1Now that the bigger career fairs of the year are over, it’s time to look back and remember every painstakingly awkward and triumphant detail. The emotional stages of career fairs differ for everybody but it all starts the same way.

1. Discovery/realization

There it is: the email or flyer or whatever that announces the career fair days. You may ignore it for a few days (or a few weeks) but eventually it boomerangs back to you. You have to go.

Courtney Yobbi, a senior history major, says she thought, “I should go to that. I’ve never been to one. I’m a senior and I’ve seriously never been to a career fair.” And that is when your fate is sealed.

2. Excitement (or disappointment) (or hope)

You scroll through the list of employers coming and are giddy with how many large corporations and businesses are coming that you are completely interested in. Yobbi says that she was excited to go to the People-to-People career fair because “I liked the people who were there. It was all camps and helping other people.”

If you’re not fortunate like Yobbi, you feel crushing disappointment when you can only identify three solid companies you actually want to talk to (bring on the struggle). But you feel hopeful that at the last minute Michelle Obama, Tina Fey or someone else awesome will swoop in to the career fair at the last minute to save you from your despair.

3. Prepared (or not so much)

Seth Krepps, a junior in computer science, says he was ambitious enough as a freshman to brave the BJC. And he got prepared to survive the gauntlet.

“I revised my resume at least three times,” he says. “I went to a first impressions workshop where I learned how to look someone in the eye, shake their hand and tell them all about myself.”

Or you can be YOLO like Yobbi and just stroll on in to the BJC without resumes or anything. Whatever works for you. Either way you feel like you will own this career fair like Lupita Nyong’o owned the Academy Awards.

4. Nervous

Except the day dawns and you are SO NOT PREPARED. You doubt everything from your outfit choice (or not if you knew you looked as boss as Krepps in his suit, purple shirt, perfectly coordinated purple, black and gray tie, pocket square and hand-polished shoes) to the paper stock of your resume (because who really wants to go buy fancy paper?). Then on your journey to the BJC, you see everyone else walking back looking triumphant, defeated or just indifferent and you start the inward mini-panic about what you’re about to do. You’re trying to get an internship or career. This could be deciding your fate in the universe. Scary.

5. Anxious

The nervousness doesn’t get better once you get to the career fair. You go back and forth between leaving your phone and bringing it as a shield from the scary recruiter people (Twitter give me strength in the form of hilarious celebrity tweets).

“Relax,” Yobbi says. “It’s not as big of a deal as everyone makes it out to be. No one’s going to like you if you’re all sweaty and nervous.”

Truer words were never spoken and Yobbi seems to have the right idea. Upstairs, it doesn’t look too bad. Just a few booths. But you’re about to enter the belly of the beast…

6. Intimidated

“It’s huge and they’re everywhere,” Krepps says. And that’s when you see the total expanse of recruiter booths. Suddenly, wearing your heels doesn’t seem like a good idea once you see the waiting lines. Or how spread out everyone you want to talk to is. You take a deep breath and swallow the intimidated feeling down and go forth into the abyss.

7. Acceptance

You get through the recruiters. Your resume pile is significantly smaller (or maybe not). You hand out business cards like how Oprah handed out freebies on her show. Your mouth is dry and you’re a tad resentful that you didn’t get nearly as much swag as you wanted to. You’re happy that you’re making progress but now you’re in your groove and you’ve accepted (and mastered) the idiosyncrasies of the career fair. The thought of Chipotle and a Netflix binge after you leave keeps you going. And then the moment you’ve been waiting for…

8. Relief

You leave. That’s right. Peace out, Girl Scout. Later, gator. You have successfully survived the career fair and are so relieved to be done that you almost walk home from the BJC (JK, that’s too much). Whether you get a bite on the job fishing line or still have to cast out your resume, you’ve taken an important step in career and personal development.

“I’ve definitely been using those techniques ever since,” Krepps says. “It taught me how to put myself out there.”

Cheers to everyone who has gotten through the career fair. Even if you didn’t get the dream job or internship you’ve been looking for, remember that there are other ways to find opportunities. Career fairs are a great way to start but they’re not the finish of whatever you want to do. So stay calm and keep printing those resumes.

Photo by Jose Ponte