I arrived at the BJC a bit earlier than I had planned, so I was waiting alone in a corner, looking around like a deer in the headlights, for the Director of the CEN, Susan, to arrive.
Just when I was about to give myself over to the nerves of those trudging in starchy suits around me, I saw a familiar face: Emma Decker, an English major who I know from the Liberal Arts Undergraduate Council (LAUC). She looked fabulous, in a sharp blazer with her blond curly hair coiffed to perfection.
Emma's presence is proof in itself that Liberal Arts students do indeed attend the Career Fair with a fresh sense of determination and specific goals. As for Emma's goals at the Fair: "Today I'm here to see CIGNA and ABC Supply because they both are based in Philly, and I know that they are looking for interns," she said. I was really impressed to see that Emma was determined to make her mark even at booths for a health insurance firm and a housing supplier, respectively.
Another of my first observations at Gate A was a shocking one: it seemed like at least 40% of the students here had absolutely no idea what to wear to a business formal event. I saw people in jeans, girls in "weekend" heels, and unkempt heads of hair all around me. After seeing some of these people, I know that a "dress for success" blog post is wholly necessary!
Once Susan arrived, she wasted no time in giving my fellow intern, Juliana Viau, and me some important tips about navigating the BJC during the Fair. One of these tips, humorously, was to "always take the blue stairs to get from floor to floor...the gray stairs lead all of the way out of the building!"
She also capitalized on the point that "employers are not grouped by major," mostly because it would be very awkward for competitors to be right next to each other, offering interviews to the same set of students! As a result, she emphasized, "you need to do your research before you come. As you can see, it's very hard to figure out who to talk to when you're actually here."
Her observation rang true; the labyrinthine array of blue and white screens did a good job of sectioning and separating the employers from each other, and Juliana and I were a little overwhelmed when Susan left us to take a look around for ourselves.
One of the first booths we visited was for SRA International, a firm that creates technology for the intelligence community. This sounded to us like they weren't looking for Liberal Arts majors, but the genial, British recruiter replied, "We are tech folks, but we're also looking for policy people [in] international business, English, and political science to be proposal writers and technical writers." His comrade then added, cheekily, "We hire smart people."
It turns out that even companies that had signs for specific majors were ultimately just looking for "smart people" as well. I spoke to an amiable representative from CGI, a tech solutions company that has contracted with the US government, about the sign at her booth that said "Supply Chain, Marketing, and IT." When I asked her if that was the be-all, end-all for CGI, she quickly replied, "Oh no; we do what we call 'nontraditional recruiting' as well. We need people with analytical skills and documentation skills."
Dick's Sporting Goods also capitalized on the skills, not the majors, that their company wanted, and added an interesting request: "We want our employees to live the sports lifestyle and be really passionate about sports." They certainly came to the right university!
Finally, we went to speak to the National Geo-spatial Intelligence Agency (NGA, pictured). Gregarious recruiter Paula, although not entirely sure what Liberal Arts actually meant, was sure that our skill-set would come in handy somewhere in her company. She cited a position in a field called "human geography," and, after Juliana and I mentioned our anthropology department, she replied enthusiastically that "We definitely need anthro majors for this department. If you go on our website, these positions will come up under 'political geography'."
At the end of my day at the BJC, I felt significantly more relaxed than when I came in. I realized it was really quite easy to talk to recruiters, and that many are just regular people who, as Susan said, "are looking for good assets for their organizations." Many of them, like Paula from NGA, come to the fair just because they love interacting with young people and building their brand.
This struck me as not being unlike an attitude we would have here at Penn State; we love interacting with alumni of all ages, and we, too, are always supportive of our Penn State brand.
So in the end, I would certainly recommend that any Liberal Arts major check out the Career Fair. If you do your research beforehand (Like I did in this blog post!), it proves to be a fun experience that allows you to meet all sorts of interesting, passionate people. Also, you never know if you'll be one of those "smart people" that these companies can't wait to hire!