Trick-or-treating at the Career Fair

Emmett Fitzpatrick

Last week Villanova hosted its annual Career Fair in the Pavilion, marking the unofficial start of job searching for seniors. For accounting majors, the Career Fair must feel like a holiday all in itself, falling in between Tax Day and Christmas in their list of favorite days of the year.

Nearly every job booth was filled with either financial services companies or engineering companies. These companies wooed students with offers of $50,000 and upwards starting salaries and plush offices in office parks all across the Tri-State area.

For half a second, I almost wished I had taken the plunge and entered the College of Engineering or the newly-named Villanova School of Business, or the “VSB” as people allowed to enter the Applied Finance Lab call it.

After that half-second, however, I scolded myself for having such thoughts and removed the blindfold from my eyes.

Before I begin a tireless assault on corporate America, I should mention that I thought the Career Fair was a first-class event.

The people at Career Services did a very nice job of putting a huge event together, and I know how much work goes into planning something like that.

Granted, they only provided food for the employers, but that’s probably a telling glimpse of what’s in store for us after graduation.

I’m not sure why I decided to go to the Career Fair in the first place. Being an idealist, however, I thought that perhaps I would find something there that would provide me with some sort of guidance of where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing come May.

With that in mind, I put on a collared shirt and pants, wrote my name and career position on a nametag (“Emmett Fitzpatrick, Unemployed”) and walked over to the Pavilion. What I found there was comical at best, and demoralizing at worst.

You know the people who wear suits to class because they have an interview that day? They walk around campus just waiting for someone to ask them why they have a suit, invariably responding, “I had a meeting with Merrill today.” Maybe you’ve been one of them. If you have, then the Career Fair was for you.

Every career-minded student with a business suit was there, turning the Pavilion into a virtual convention for entry-level employers to assault indecisive college kids with information about their companies.

As I walked around with a friend of mine visiting the hundred-plus booths at the Pavilion, he commented that he felt like a little kid trick-or-treating on Halloween.

The metaphor could not have been more applicable.

Looking around, I definitely felt like we wearing costumes. The students who were usually adorned in flip-flops and T-shirts were now dressed up as corporate players in the world of early-morning coffee, hour-long lunches and afternoon strategy meetings that usually amount to nothing more than deciding who is bringing cake to the next strategy meeting.

We did get treats as every employer had something to hand out with their company’s logo on it. In fact, we got so many hand-outs that the people from Career Services gave each student a bag to hold all our new possessions.

One frightening yet humorous part of the story took place when I ran into an old friend who graduated last May and was representing her company at the fair.

Before I could ask what was new with her life and what our mutual friends were up to, she was telling me about the direction of her company, as if she were the CEO. In actuality, she had started her job just a month and a half ago.

Considering she was wearing a business suit and had a business card, which she gave me, I guess you could say she was winning the rat race.

Unfortunately, the majority of students at the fair were just like the aforementioned graduate: eager to set out on the path towards corporate America. The worst part of it is that everyone there knew that they were full of it but nevertheless, went on with enthusiastic smiles.

The entire time I felt like a guest at a wedding of someone I barely knew. I don’t want to be there and the bride and groom don’t want me there, but when we see each other, we plaster smiles on our faces and they thank me for my well-wishes.

By the end of the fair, I could relate to one of the representatives from an engineering firm who provided the most honest assessment of the event.

He passionately told a young female student how exciting his job was. Then after she left, yawned, turned to the co-worker next to him and asked, “How long do we have to be here?”