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 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.