Are you graduating soon? Kind of clueless about what to do after? Fear not my friends–you are definitely not alone. I, too, have been having trouble putting a title on my future. Since September is usually the month for campus recruitment and such, I decided that this was the perfect time to explore my options and expand my network of contacts. Here is a summary of what I’ve learned from attending the plethora of employment information sessions here on St. George campus.
1. The Dress Code
When I arrived at my very first info session with Telus last week, I was shocked to find that, contrary to my bright orange sweater vest/black casual capris outfit, almost everyone else present had worn formal business attire. Basically, I was a single orange dot amongst the sea of black-clothed individuals. (And to think, I almost wore jeans!) From that moment on, I learned to always wear dress shirt, dress pants and heels to all remaining events I had signed up for. For someone coming from a science background, where conventional dress codes pretty much didn’t exist except for perhaps safety purposes in labs, wearing business attire all day long wore me out almost immediately. What started off as being an awesome and almost empowering feeling quickly got reduced to, well, a plain and desperate need to slouch and maybe rest my feet. For anyone who’s in Business/Commerce: R.E.S.P.E.C.T.
2. The Routine
What would you expect at such an event? Usually, it goes something like this:
- Arrive 5-10 minutes before the official start time, find your name on a list of pre-registered candidates, sign in.
- Before presentation starts: If the company is cool/generous enough to offer free stuff, now would be the time to hog resources and/or fumble with your new stuff with child-like curiosity. Your other option would be to prudently scan the roomful of potential competition that surrounds you, and maybe chat it up with one or two that look less threatening than the rest. Some keeners like to exchange business cards during this period.
- The presentation itself: This may take anywhere from half an hour to an hour and a half. It usually doesn’t go much past this, because people get tired, and the presenters, like the rest of us, would want food that’s usually located somewhere in the back/outside of the room (hint, hint). During the presentation, there’ll likely be a team of employees from the company, who will take turns impressing you with their positions of power and awesome experiences that make the workplace sound like Hawaii. It usually goes in the order of: “Who we are”, “How big we are”, “What we do”, “What we look for”, and finally, “How to apply”. During this time, feel free to madly scribble down notes that may not only come in handy later on during your actual application, but may also give some real fright to those sitting around you. Finally, try to formulate some good questions you might have for the representatives and jot them down before you forget. Try really hard to remember the names of those reps that you are interested in talking to in person, as well as what they look like.
- Post-presentation mingle: make a beeline NOT for the food/drink offered to you in abundance, but to the representative of your interest (if you want to succeed, gotta make those sacrifices). It takes some real skill to casually squeeze your way into a circle of eager students half-suffocating the poor rep, but after a couple practices, your moves should be pretty smooth. Usually they will hand out their business cards freely or at request, so make sure you grab one, or even make a card exchange if you have made your own. Listen carefully to other people’s questions, but don’t be afraid to insert some funny comments here and there to loosen up the atmosphere a bit and make yourself more memorable. Your chance at asking questions will come when you notice a quick pause of silence amongst the group of students–remember that not everyone there would be standing around solely for the purpose of asking their own questions; some are there to simply listen and observe, a very wise thing to do.
Keep in mind that students attack company reps in waves. If one person heads for someone special, you can almost bet 100% that at that instant, several others will sense that person’s urgency and thus also head for the same rep, regardless of whether it is in their best interest to talk to him/her or not. In this case, you can either go talk to someone else first, or join the circle and wait everyone else out.
3. Who benefits and who doesn’t?
If you are the type to have a keen interest in consulting, then regardless of your discipline, feel free to attend the presentations of any of the major consulting firms (e.g. Bain and Company, Deloitte and Touche, Mckinsey, etc). Most info sessions, however, are targeted primarily at Commerce/Engineering/Computer Science students. Although for certain internship-typed programs, the organization may claim that they will consider students from all disciplines who have good leadership and transferable skills, keep in mind that when they are hiring only 2-3 people, it’s very unlikely that they’d take someone who does not have the related background (such as marketing, for a position at Telus) when there are a slew of brilliant individuals who have actually studied this in undergrad, who might also have brilliant extracurricular experiences.
Does this mean that if you are in Arts and Science like me, then these info sessions are utterly useless? Not necessarily. It’s a great way for you to go out there, meet people and learn about a potential career path that you are considering. Remember that when chatting with the company reps, your questions are by no means limited to topics regarding the company and the hiring process. If you want to find out about how a representative had gotten to where he or she is today, this would be a great opportunity to ask–just be careful that you aren’t taking up other people’s time with your slightly more personal questions.
Info sessions like these also give valuable glimpses into the company’s culture. Your personality, work habits and values might fit better with one organization over another, and it’s precisely this difference that determines whether or not you’d be passionate and loyal to an employer. Like falling in love, finding the “right fit” requires some thought, and a whole lot of intuition. But when you do find that one “dream company”, suddenly all clouds will part, and your career goals will become very, very clear.
I hope that I’ve provided you a comprehensive look at the Employment Info Session experience. If you have any more questions, feel free to throw them at me in Comments. The best way to learn, in my opinion, is always simply by doing. So go out there, and sit in a couple of sessions and see for yourself. Who knows, maybe you might get lucky and land one of those highly coveted consulting jobs! Good night and good luck!