College career fairs, you have probably found yourself stuck in one before. If not, let me tell you how it typically unfolds. Hundreds of students gather in a large university hall with their resumes in hand as they push and slide past one another, cutting each other off in long lines to talk to a few company recruiters that stand behind tables decorated with companies’ names and filled with flyers, brochures and little gifts. At maximum, you have four hours to approach the companies you are interested in and deliver your elevator pitch to recruiters as loud as you can because everyone around you is talking and moving around. I don’t know about you, but if you are an introvert like me, you are probably already sweating at just the thought of being in that environment.
Before you come at me, let me acknowledge that the concept of career fairs is a brilliant idea. It’s a great opportunity for students to explore and network with companies as they wrap up their degrees and hopefully land an internship or even a job. However, the way these career fairs are carried out isn’t effective. It does not create an opportunity for each student to be able to network with companies. The concept of college career fairs is believed to originate in the early 20th century. The earliest dated college career fair was from Northwestern University in 1929. The University hosted many companies that were recruiting college students in its halls. From there on, the concept of college career fairs has remained the same for almost a century, despite the massive changes that the 21st century brought to college institutions, the workplace and the entire concept of networking.
With all the recent technological advancements, you expect college career fairs to have evolved with that. However, many students report showing up to these fairs and not being able to have a conversation with recruiters due to the overcrowdedness of these events, the loud noises of the environment and the limited time constraints . According to ERE Net, a recruiting news and information site, many companies show up on campuses to advertise their brand instead of hiring students. Even HR executives have rated career fairs on a scale of 1.6 out of 5 in terms of effectiveness. Students usually go all out for this event. They put on their best professional attire, spend money on printing copies of their resume, wait in long lines to deliver their elevator pitches to recruiters and at the end a recruiter takes their resume and tells them to visit their website and apply online: what a slap on the face.
It is crystal clear that career fairs are outdated. The 21st century requires finding new ways of networking. Instead of investing all the time, money and effort to get dozens of companies at a university, why not invest in providing students with an alternative and effective way of networking that gives each student an equal chance of networking with companies that are actively seeking to fill positions instead of promoting their brands?