“Go to school, get a job!”
This lesson, delivered by high school guidance counselors across the country, lingers in and haunts my unemployable-English-major psyche. Though I’m capable of completing the first half of the command, the second is sure to prove a problem. This is why I decided to go to Mount Allison’s career fair, to learn how I might best prepare myself for employment in the modern economy.
A group of bored, semi-formally dressed students sat outside the fair. Armed with pens and a sign-in sheet, they dutifully guarded the entrance to Tweedie Hall. This was my first step to achieving a successful future, and I thanked them for allowing me in.
The room was abuzz with students trying to convert their degrees into dollars, folding tables laid out in succession, fresh-pressed suits and uniforms, promotional materials covered in memes and recruiters all trying to lure students with candies and corporate swag. My head was spinning. It was becoming clear that I should have gone to the confidence-building tutorial that had been offered earlier that morning.
Front and centre in the career fair were recruiters from J.D. Irving and its subsidiaries. Cautiously, I approached them and asked what kinds of opportunities were available for recent graduates. They were kind and enthusiastic in their response, which brought my guard down.
Once I relaxed a bit, I told them I was there to write an article for the student newspaper. It was immediately apparent that this was a mistake. The recruiters stiffened and twitched a little, their eyes widening. After a long pause, one said that it was nice that I was involved in extracurriculars. Our exchanges became awkward so I thanked them for their time and moved on.
Hopeful that I hadn’t just ruined my chances for future employment, I began talking to a long-haired man in his late twenties. He was representing a government program for bilingualism and was much happier to speak to a student journalist, so much so that he repeated each piece of information three times: once without visual aid, again with printed material and once again with a tablet displaying the program’s website.
Like other recruiters I spoke to, he had been travelling a lot recently. Because, he said, there is always a whirlwind of career fairs at this time of the year, he has been visiting universities all around the province. He will be starting a high school circuit soon.
At about this time I heard the man across from him praising the cultural value and lucrativeness of spending a summer teaching English in China. This sounded good to me – something I could use an English degree for! I went to his table, where he handed me a pink tote bag. After boasting that the bag was made in China, which he called a remarkable country, he said enthusiastically that the job would allow me to start saving money.
Thus informed, I left to speak to a student in a three-piece suit waiting to talk to recruiters from a plumbing firm. He told me he was glad that Mt. A had a job fair but that the one held at UNB was better since more companies attended, thus exposing students to a greater number of career opportunities. He added, however, that at least the recruiters at Mt. A’s fair had more time to talk to students individually.
I felt as though I had come a long way in expanding my career horizons that morning. I knew, however, that there was more to learn if I was going to self-actualize, synergize and economize. Fortunately for me, I could go and learn to cultivate a personal brand at the social media seminar the following evening.