A few months ago, I vowed—against my better judgement—that I was going to suit up, print out about twice as many copies of my resume as I needed, and make my way to the Frank Erwin Center and take part in the 2013 Career Fair. I had been agonizing over this decision. On one hand, some of the hottest companies to work for were going to be there (the lengthy list of attendees included names like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook, just to name a few of the 160 total companies that showed up), and on the other, I had next to no real, hardcore CS experience. Next to my friends, some of whom had worked for—or worse, founded—a startup in high school or had contributed thousands of lines of code to open-source projects on Github, I was a terrible candidate. Going to the fair meant wearing a suit on an oppressively hot day and spending three hours on my feet trying to talk my minimal accomplishments up to recruiters with next to no possibility of success.
On the other hand, there were rumors that Google was giving away a Nexus 7, so I decided to go. Even though the rumor was tragically false, I still walked out of there with my resume in the hands of companies like LinkedIn, Square, and Bloomberg (all of whom sent me interview requests within a month), not to mention somewhere between 7 and 10 t-shirts and a bag of swag. More importantly, within two months of the career fair, I had a solid offer from Bloomberg for a software development internship this summer. Well worth a little sweat and tired calves.
The problem is that although there were a lot of people set on going to the fair who ended up going, there were just as many who went through the same thought process as I did but decided against going. They felt they didn’t have enough experience, or that it would be a waste of their time—the same reasons I was reluctant to go. In most cases, though, I found out afterwards that even people with literally no CS experience on their resume still walked out with their names in more than a few databases, and in several cases with a few job offers as well.
What bothers me most about all of this is that there is this dearth of attendance at an event dedicated to getting companies in contact with students. The first thing almost every recruiter asked me for was a copy of my resume and my credentials, and by the time I moved to the next booth, they usually had a few stories about the most interesting things on my resume as well. More importantly, I noticed that some of my friends, including a few who I had personally dragged to the FEC, were engaged in animated conversation with a recruiter a few tables away.
If I, with my minimal experience in CS and no experience at all with the concept of career fairs or internships, could go and be successful at it, I strongly believe that anyone (including you) could go and have just as much, if not more, success at the Career Fair. That’s not to say that you’ll get a job, or that if you do, it’ll be at Apple or Microsoft, but even if you go and are rejected by every single company there (which, as a CS major, unless you seriously offend literally everyone you talk to, is next to impossible), you’ll usually come out with a bag bursting with swag. Seriously, it’s unbelievable. In addition to the aforementioned t-shirts, I now have a full cup of pens, each from a different companies, sitting on my desk, next to a wind-up Android toy, a Square reader, and a blacklight from Raytheon. Bottom line: suit up, take a bottle of water, print out 40 copies of your resume (but not on the lab printers, go to the PCL and pay the five cents per copy charge), and get on the bus in January. It’s worth it.