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You should not look for jobs at job fairs

Brenda Costa, Class of 1994

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The Meadville-Western Crawford County Chamber of Commerce, in collaboration with the Allegheny Gateway, held their seventh annual Job and Internship Fair on March 1, where more than two dozen regional employers came out to engage with Allegheny students.

As the Executive Director of the French Creek Valley Conservancy and an Allegheny alum, I attended not because I had job vacancies to fill, but because I enjoy interacting with students. Unfortunately, over the course of two hours I only spoke to two students, one of whom is our current intern. Overall, the event was not well attended.

Students, you missed a great opportunity. Maybe you did not attend because you are not interested in working in the Meadville area. Maybe you did not attend because you are not a senior and are not thinking about job prospects yet. Maybe you did not attend because you went to get pork carnitas at the Cantina, and in that case, I cannot blame you.

But here is who should have attended — everyone; Seniors; freshman; Pennsylvanians; Californians; recent graduates; everyone.

The professionals who go to these types of events are not there because they expect to have someone approach their table in a suit with a stellar resume in hand, who turns out to be the perfect candidate for a job opening.

I would encourage all of you to attend career events on campus, not looking for a job, but to connect with people…”

— Brenda Costa

I cannot speak for everyone there, but I do not attend these events to get something from students, I attend them to give something to students.

I do not care if you are not interested in land conservation. I can talk to you about my work, non-profit management, my geology degree, when and why I went to graduate school or how working at a bagel shop taught me some excellent managerial skills.

At the very least, I am there to help you practice talking to adults about careers in a relaxed setting, instead of across a conference table when you go somewhere for an interview.

On winter break of my sophomore year at Allegheny, I attended a huge science and technical career fair where hundreds of companies were represented. I got to the convention center and stood in the lobby for ten minutes thinking, “why am I here?”

I finally mustered up the courage to go upstairs and start talking to people. I was concerned about wasting these professionals’ time, so I started at booth one blurting out “Hi, I’m not looking for a job but….” Much to my surprise, I spent the next few hours talking to people eager to give advice and round out my understanding of the field I was planning to enter.

Some were more helpful than others, but no one told me to go away. My experience was so valuable I changed my major upon returning to school, realizing what I thought would get me where I wanted, would not.

I will keep attending these events because I feel my role as a mentor is an important way to give back to the Allegheny community; it is not just for the carnitas. I would encourage all of you to attend career events on campus, not looking for a job, but to connect with people who have already navigated the course you find yourself on now. These events provide access to a variety of professionals who are there to give their time to you, not to give you your dream job.

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4 Responses to “You should not look for jobs at job fairs”

  1. Katie on April 5th, 2018 5:51 pm

    You went to a job fair with apparently zero intention of hiring anyone, and you’re now mad that it wasn’t well attended? Come on.

  2. Brenda Costa on April 6th, 2018 8:34 am

    Actually, it’s was a job and internship fair and I was looking for interns, but also looking to have conversations with students about where they wanted to go in their future endeavors. I’ve mentored dozens of Allegheny students and will continue to do so. The Allegheny community has given so much to me, and I like to give back-“mad” hasn’t ever come into play for me.

  3. Katie on April 6th, 2018 3:41 pm

    At a minimum, you felt the need to write a scolding letter to students saying that they should have attended. It’s great that you’re willing to mentor students and offer (unpaid?) internships, but perhaps students getting ready to graduate with substantial student loan debt didn’t feel that spending the day at a job fair that is unlikely to lead to a paying job was the most productive use of their time. I’m guessing THAT is the reason that the event wasn’t well attended, and I don’t think they’re wrong for feeling that way.

  4. Alum on April 10th, 2018 12:48 pm

    I’m sorry Katie, but did you read the piece? You don’t seem to be taking anything away from the overall message and are rather focusing on a very small portion of the commentary.

    As someone who regrets not making more connections while at Allegheny (with professors, staff, AND community members), I think this is a great message and wakeup.

    Just about everyone has student loan debt and my first job was taken for that sole reason, had I made better connections and met more people I might not have been in that situation…

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You should not look for jobs at job fairs