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What we wish we knew before the 2013 Career Fair


Ask any senior what the most traumatic event of his or her week was, and I bet almost all respond with just two words: career fair. Tuesday’s event in White Plaza was heralded by a flurry of nervous questions — “How should I introduce myself?” “Should I wear heels?” “Which booths are giving out the best swag?” — and a notable lack of paper in Row computer clusters after a flurry of last-minute resume printing.

The U.S. Department of State allegedly failed to show up due to the recent government shutdown, but the jury is still out. (MADDY SIDES/The Stanford Daily)
The U.S. Department of State allegedly failed to show up due to the recent government shutdown, but the jury is still out. (MADDY SIDES/The Stanford Daily)

In the aftermath of all the networking, as students compared free t-shirts and stories of awkward encounters, the seniors on The Daily staff came up with a few things we wish someone had told us before the fair. Juniors, listen up!


1)  There is no need to get really dressed up. Business casual: the vaguest of terms, and one that strikes fear into the hearts of college students who usually go to class in yoga pants. But don’t stress. Yes, look nice. (Shower maybe? Definitely put on a clean shirt.) Some khakis and a polo should do it for guys; girls can get away with nice jeans or a sundress and a sweater. No need for sky-high heels. The main thing is not to look sloppy… just please no sweatpants.


2)  The people working the booths aren’t necessarily doing the hiring. I know they look impressive and are the sole tangible link to your dream job, but chances are, the dudes manning the tables are in human resources or low-level recruiting– managers in other departments are the ones making the hiring decisions. So, as satisfying and helpful as it may feel to chat them up and see them add your resume to the pile, make sure to check out the company’s website for formal job application forms.


3)  Don’t try to hit every single booth. First of all, I’m pretty sure that’s physically impossible — there were like 300 of them. But also, try to look over the list of featured companies the night before and choose a list of 10 to 15 that you really want to check out. This focus will give you a sense of purpose and keep you from getting overwhelmed among all the white umbrellas.


4)  However… Be open. Keep looking around as you move through the fair, and don’t be afraid to go talk to someone friendly at a booth that catches your eye. It’s also okay to talk to people who don’t seem to be recruiting people from your major — fuzzies, even some of the tech companies all the coders flock to might be interested in your writing or marketing skills. You won’t know until you try.


5)    And the No. 1 piece of advice: They want you. I know it feels like this whole thing is about you trying desperately to impress big-shot companies in the hopes of maybe, hopefully, getting a job one day, but the truth is that they are trying just as hard to impress you. You are a Stanford student — with all that implies — and you’ve been working your butt off for the last three years. Relax, smile confidently and show those companies why they would be lucky to have you.