[Gearing up for the Career Fair]
9:35: I'm eating breakfast and reading The Chronicle. Kind of. Pancakes at Penn are really hitting the spot, and consequently distracting me.
9:36: Headed to the Career Fair today. Job. Career. The Future. Watcha gonna do with your life, Elizabeth? Nerves? Nah, it's just the rest of my life starting right now, in a gym that smells like sneakers, at a table, with a stranger who can only be so excited to work yet another career fair... Piece of cake!
9:37: Advice I read in The Chronicle from the Career Center: Know what you want to get out of the fair. Right. Obvious. Hi, I'd like an internship-that-becomes-full-time-job, please. Preferably highly paid that allows me to eat local and organic. Got one? Great. See you this summer.
9:38 – Know what you want. Ok, seriously. What do I want?
[Walking to the Career Fair]
11:37: Also read in The Chronicle: The Career Center recommends having a 10-second shpeel that you can use to sell yourself. Hmm. Maybe I should have visited the career center for help? They keep saying they can help. But I didn't go, because…I dunno, just don't have a good reason.
11:38: Besides, I've got this. I know myself well. Right? I'm… I'm...
11:39 : “Hi, I'm Elizabeth and I am a current junior! [1s] I'm an Economics and Global Health major and, though I have interests and am passionate like most other Duke students, I, in all honestly, have no idea what I want to do for a career. [4s] ….Employ me!! [5s] ….[8s] ….[10s]”
11:40: Crap I should have gone to the Career Center.
11:42 – I'm here. It's hot. Not like “fun! a dance club!” hot. Like the kind of hot where a bunch of people I've seen on campus wearing flip flops, shorts and t-shirts are now dressed to kill, and looking totally uncomfortable. And I can see the nerves. Lots of people... Jeez, lots of sweaty people.
Just be yourself. But not.
11:44 – Walking around now. That company looks interesting. I'll go over. Ready, set… GO.
11:45 – Wait. Stop. What the hell am I going to say? Hi, nice weather we're having. I'm Elizabeth… uggh.
11:46 – I'll just wing it. Bring it on, recruiters!!! Bring. It. On.
11: 55 – I'm in line waiting to speak to an employer. I'm listening in, getting geared up with my pitch. Ready to kill it. KILL IT.
11:56 -- Girl in front of me: “Hi, I'm [---]! Here's my resume. I'm really interested in consulting.”
11:57 – My turn. To repeat my unoriginal mantra: Bring. It. On. “Hi! ...Here's my resume, too. And I, too, am really interested in consulting.” Wow. I just said that? God my resume better be killer, because that was … well it sucked.
11:58 – At least my mom thinks I'm special.
11:59 – Ok, let’s try again with another one. Deep breath. This recruiter says: “You look different than a lot of our applicants.”
12:00 – What I want to say: Different in a good way? Or different in a you're-not-what-we're-looking-for kind of way? Can you expand on that? Should I be offended? Or maybe that's one of those test questions they ask to see how you'll react, like a recruiter psychology experiment. Maybe I should say, "you look different than a lot of our recruiters." But he doesn't.
12:00 – I throw him a curveball right back: “Are your arm-pits as sweaty as mine right now?”
12:00 – Just kidding. What I actually say (awkwardly): “Oh! Well I hope that means I can bring a new perspective to the firm.” Wow. Who talks like that? Me, apparently, ladies and gentleman. How in the world can I get to know about a company and tell them about me in two minutes. My future in two minutes.
12:02: Definitely going to the career center.
Winston Churchill said “success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” I wonder if he ever went to a Career Fair feeling like his future was on the line. It wasn't, my future that is. But sometimes the pressure gets to you, and it just feels like it. Most of the people there looked like they felt the same way, or worse. (Particularly the sweaty ones.)
And though it might be a bit of an exaggeration to call my career fair experience a “failure,” Churchill's wisdom still applies. I think that success, at a career fair or in life in general, is about maintaining enthusiasm. It's about walking into every opportunity desiring to learn something from it, even if you don't know what that something is. It's about acknowledging that, sure, you might have a potential employer call you “different.” You might trip on your tongue when trying to explain what you're interested in. But that doesn't make the horizon of your post-Duke future any less bright.
Because despite all the pressure to “know” what they're interested in, no 21-year-old actually “knows." We're all just swimming around pretending to know, some of us better than others. And it's funny because every successful professional was, at one point, 20, 21, 22 years old; I doubt they knew much at that point either. So why do we feel all this pressure to have "it" together? I might not have a 10-second shpeel ready, but I do have my passion, my earnestness, my enthusiasm. And for this 21-year-old, for today at least, that feels like enough.