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Surviving Career Fairs

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There is a curious phenomenon not at all restricted to my university known as the Careers Fair. Here, barely a day goes by where there is not some new fair rolling into town. Today was the Internship Fair. The last one was the somewhat dry and strangely indefinable occupation known as 'consulting'. No one was quite sure what a consultant actually did but it was a very popular fair nevertheless. These announcements inevitably lead to thronging, salivating hordes of young aspirational types plucked and preened for that potential 'informal' interview with a bored company stall staffer, bolting for the Town Hall. The customary guardians of the fair, the Careers Officers, stand upright and stern as the trickle turns to a flood, demanding you flash your ID card before admittance lest a member of the curious public gain access to the haloed hall of future employ.

Inside it is something of a free for all. Elbowing and shoving is not uncommon as prospective applicants try to grab the attention of the company representatives. Some play dirty. I spied one student telling a friend not to bother with American Express only to see said speaker turn up at the Amex stall once said 'friend' had been farewelled at the exit. Others dress in full battle armour, presenting their potential employers with future visions of immaculate, well-tailored potential postgraduate zeal. Some of the would be L'Oréal applicants looked positively Hollywood-esque. However not all employers are fooled. A notable aerospace company had a surprisingly small stall and only one staffer present. You had to compete for her attention whereas another company offered free pizza. Nice? No. The staffers were only talking to the students who managed to restrain themselves and not eat any of it. It's hard to make a good impression when you're holding a greasy slice of pizza. That's one way to sort the driven to the just plain hungry. Full marks though go to an unnamed banking corporation which, if you weren't wearing a tie, you didn't get an audience. In this somewhat claustrophobic environment it's not hard to foresee that many would be applicants are simply turned off and retreat to the relative safety of the college bar. A few are seen to huddle in mini-packs, analysing where and who they should be seen talking to in order to attract the interest of another employer. Frankly, I don't think the stall staffers really notice. The look of boredom on some of their faces was quite touching.

Excusing myself from the fray, my hands suspiciously empty of any goodie bags, I retreated, fighting against the current trying to get in. Later on, talking to a more seasoned fair attendee, I learnt a little secret. By ignoring all of the assembled employers he had attracted the attention of a consultancy firm. They approached him and he, with charismatic grace, dismissed their entire business model and offered them a novel approach. Hubris? Arrogance? Genius? Well, he has an internship starting next summer.