Helluva Hot Take: Career Day Culture

Another Career Day has come and gone, and at this point in my time here at Mines, I’ve become a little disillusioned. 

Don’t get me wrong – looking back on my adventures into the void that is the CSM Career Fair, I see the benefits. I have gotten internships based on meeting employers in the heart of Lockridge Gymnasium, and the countless hours offered of resume services (not to mention free resume printing that may or may not have been abused in my earlier years at Mines – Thanks BP!) have definitely crossed my radar at some point. There is huge value in being able to talk with companies that you are interested in to learn more about what they do. That’s one quick solution to getting stuck doing an internship where your job might involve slaughtering chickens or measuring the slopes of ADA accessible entrances across Denver.

All joking aside, the “fear mongering” and panic I have seen across campus over the course of the eight career fairs I have attended has not given me much hope for our own personal successes. We put an absurd amount of pressure on students to get internships from this single event even as early as freshman year. While I did get a full bag of trial size laundry supplies and half a dozen stress balls, I wouldn’t say Career Fair did much for me in the internship department. My CSM101 peer mentors told us it would be a great opportunity to begin to network and refine our resumes. It did not help that the ‘Resume Assignment’ was due the day before the fair and many of us were at a loss as to what to put on it? Could we truly call a paper and hot glue prototype from EPICS a “demonstration of engineering initiative”? The spring career fair went similarly and I decided to study abroad that summer instead of trying to woo employers with my breadth of skills not limited to Calc 1, Physics 1 and knowing how to cook Minute Rice in 58 seconds. In the years following, I have found internships, some on my own and some through the Career Fair itself, but every single time, I have been flabbergasted by the negative culture around campus that this event seems spur.

While I’m sure the negative build up of stress does not begin or end with Career Fair, it seems to rear its ugly head for significantly more noticeable amounts of time around this event. We scramble to complete resumes and make lists of companies to talk to, but rarely do we ever start doing these things until just before the fair. There is so much pressure to get a job at Career Fair that every student feels the need to stay up late to ensure their best odds talking to companies, while forgoing homework, sleep and their own social lives. Nearly every student I have spoken with in the days following Career Fair, have expressed that this week was an actual nightmare for them with all the assignments on top of the prep they had to do leading into the events of the week. Career Fair has become so emphasized at Mines that people were more concerned about XYZ company making it to the gym on Tuesday than them being able to get there themselves in several inches of snow and ice. Professors require that you bring them proof that you went to Career Fair to encourage people to go, yet there may be students for whom this request is a significant stressor. If we cannot make it to the fair, then we are left to ask ourselves, “Did I do enough?” when we don’t get the offer from our dream company.

I hesitate to claim that we fix this issue by stopping our encouragement of professional development, because Career Fair is one of the best resources that this campus offers. I instead urge students not to see it as the end of the line when it comes to jobs. Career Fair will always be there – Spring and Fall semesters – but if you are able to prepare yourself beforehand or even look into other companies throughout the year, the stress and negative experience of cramming multiple interviews and information sessions into one day or week will go down. Career Day is not and should not be the equivalent of studying the night before and exam. Do your research and take a deep breath. Getting a job or internship is not the end of the world – Keep your head up and know you still have time to land that interview.

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