My First Visit to a Job Fair: Reflections from a Novice Job Fair Attendee
by Shouvik K. Bhattacharya of Minnesota State University Moorhead, a 2012 SPS Summer Intern who explored how physics departments can help their students be better prepared to enter the workforce upon graduation.
I take a deep breath and step inside the fair pavilion at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC. There are about 30 small booths occupied by prospective employers at this summer career expo sponsored by the magazine Equal Opportunity, and already four of them are crowded. The University of Virginia booth looks less crowded, so I decide to visit it first.
Shouvik K. Bhattacharya.
Image credit: Tracy M. Schwab.
An official welcomes me with a warm smile and gives me a pen with the university's name printed on it. She says that the human resources department recruits applicants from diverse academic backgrounds, including physics. An applicant with a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) background is expected to have the ability to effectively coordinate and collaborate with others. These are valuable skills that employers care about. She shares her contact information and also requests my resume in turn.
I wander off for a bit and then enter the US Bureau of Labor Statistics booth. Many who complete bachelor's degrees in physics have taken some statistics courses, and that is what motivates me to stop by this particular booth. But the representative informs me that a physics major should apply only if he or she has a strong mathematics and statistics background.
The next representative I speak with, at the Boeing Company's booth, sounds very positive and enthusiastic. She tells me that the company has many entry-level openings. She advises me to create a profile on Boeing's career website and to prepare a resume based on the jobs that are available. She emphasizes that being flexible about relocation and having a positive attitude toward learning new things are essential to an employee's job security. I realize that all the representatives at the job fair are actually there to help applicants, and I feel confident thereafter.
Then I stop by the job booth of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, where I am handed a job list. This government agency definitely hires physics undergraduates. The representative asks me to share this information with anyone who would be interested in applying for the entry-level openings. Job titles include general engineer and scientist, both of which require a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.8 overall and 3.4 in the applicant's major. The job descriptions include writing, critical thinking, decision making, inspection, and conformity research as the integral duties that employees would have to perform. I get a little excited seeing all these details. So far this has to be my best experience of the job fair, as I get to see an example of how a physics major can start working after a successful degree completion.
The US Air Force posts its jobs on the USAJOBS website, which I learn at its booth. The representative at the Internal Revenue Service booth tells me that living in a big city can seem tough and challenging, but ultimately it often turns out to be beneficial, as dynamic city life motivates employees to perform better. He also tells me that it never hurts to be ambitious. A representative from the Defense Intelligence Agency asks me why I have not highlighted in my resume the electronics courses that I have taken. The resume I had handed him focuses on my research background in observational astronomy. I realize that having a few different versions of my resume would be beneficial.
In the beginning, I felt a little overwhelmed, but I soon realized that all of the representatives are there to help and answer questions. Looking back at it now, I know what I have to do when I attend my next job fair. The role I played at this fair might be considered that of a surveyor, rather than that of a potential job seeker. I didn't prepare different versions of my resume, highlighting different skill sets. That is the first thing one should do before attending a fair, as the resume serves the role of a conversation starter. Wearing business clothes is also a must, because it shows how interested and serious one is about finding a job. I made a few new connections at the job fair, and I've now sent follow-up emails to each, conveying my thanks for spending time with me. The job fair visit was an absolutely amazing learning experience for me.
Originally published in the Fall 2012 issue of The SPS Observer, Volume XLVI, Issue 3. Re-printed with permission from SPS and the author.
For more information about SPS Internships like Shouvik's, please visit http://www.spsnational.org/programs/internships/.