Why Take Career Day So Serious?

by Caleb Pan

   Well, it’s my last career day as a senior graduating this semester. I also have a very well-paying job lined up. So…I strut into Lockridge wearing flip-flops, cargo shorts, a polygon panda cap, and a t-shirt with a cross-armed cartoon bunny with the text Me? Sarcastic? Never. I’m dressed for success, confidence at an all-time high. I’m hell on wheels among the mass of students sweating in suits. I get odd looks and stares at every turn. I don’t care about their looks, in fact, I am empowered by them. If you judge then be judged. What are you looking at you cufflinks-wearing tryhard?

   First objective: get a bag. I see and snatch one from a booth. The looting can begin. I visit every booth and examine the corporate branded wares they’ve brought to entice us. While mindless plundering is an option, I rather not be so crass in my taste or operation. Pens, pop-sockets, carabiners, stress balls, and other uninteresting trinkets are skipped. Everything else was fair game. Electronic accessories and socks were the prizes.

   Professionalism and dignity were long out of the question. I cut lines and slip between recruiters to grab the goodies off their tables. No questions asked if there’s nothing to ask. Since the rest of my face is hidden, I don’t bother with eye contact. It is unfortunate that not many companies showed up this time. I got two pairs of socks instead of four like last time.

   I spot friends here and there. My bravado has peaked and I tell them they look hot because they all do. They better get at least five offers — I swear to whatever gods the Career Center prays to for higher statistics they can put in their annual report. I’m sure they’re gonna do great. 

   The truth is I only have had one “real” career fair and the last “normal” one in recent memory: my very first semester, fall 2019. There were so many companies the track house was also filled with them. I remember the anxiety, the sweat dripping down my face while talking to recruiters because it really was that hot in that room, the dejection of countless companies turning away freshmen, the joy of successfully securing an internship from a connection I made. I’ll never forget that.

   It’s an odd feeling to exit career day for the last time. It was a fun day, but there was a sense of peace and bitterness. A now-graduated staff writer once wrote a Helluva Hot Take on Career Day Culture (which I encourage all students to read and reflect on) and had this remark: “every single time, I have been flabbergasted by the negative culture around campus that this event seems [to] 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.”

   Hot takes are still opinions at the end of the day regardless of how obviously true they may appear to be. On the other hand, who knows how many emails I’ve (and everyone else) been bombarded with by the career center just around this event. I filter redundant reminders about company info sessions into spam because that’s what it is. If we could empirically measure the pressure and priority Mines places on our careers, that would be a good metric. Or perhaps observe that the career center dwarfs the counseling center in size, manpower, resources, availability, presence, and influence of school culture. It’s a concrete metaphor of the priorities and values the school holds higher. Dollar signs are easier to see than students who struggle under campus cultural expectations I guess.

   Anxiously sweating while waiting in line is a sometimes necessary part of life. Career day is incredibly useful, important even, but nothing sacred or worthy for all it’s idolatry given to it. I found success in part because of Mines, but mostly from my own journey of my own way, away from the obsession with industry outcomes and school reputation. Even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat. There’s more to life, and taking a walk in flip flops amid that craze can be nice.

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