Isman ’15: Unfair recruiting

Opinions Columnist
Thursday, October 9, 2014

Three weeks ago, I went to my first career fair. I walked around a bit, and though I talked to some representatives, I left mostly disappointed. Out of the over 90 companies that came to the fair, I had three successful and helpful interactions. At first, I thought that maybe I wasn’t looking closely enough at who was there. But I soon realized that only about six or seven companies present worked in an area that interests me — communications.

While CareerLAB has made efforts to bring more people from communications industries to Brown, it seems they are still lacking. Any students interested in media, advertising or public relations would benefit from knowing who they can work for, whether large organizations or small. Instead, we continue attending job fairs that focus on technology, consulting and finance jobs and leave empty-handed. For students not interested in finance or technology, the unfair focus on these industries leads to frustration and wasted energy.

Ideally, career fairs should be a great way to learn about the different options for work in each field. They can reduce the amount of time we have to put in as individuals in coming up with a list of possible employers and allow us to focus on researching specific companies to know exactly what interests us. The lack of representation of communications-based industries means that I have to spend a lot more time researching who I want to work for, while students going into finance or technology seem to have the answers right in front of them and a path clearly laid out.

Additionally, as Trisha Anderson wrote in a piece for in 2010, career fairs are important “for everyone to attend because they are a great way to network with local professionals.” As someone interested in working for a publishing house, I haven’t had the opportunity to get my name out there and talk to professionals in the field. This makes me feel as if I am behind on my search for a job.

So many students would benefit from career fairs geared toward media and communications because we would be able to learn not only who these companies are, but also their qualifications for entry-level positions. Students interested in entering these fields lack the information that is handed to students in the technology and finance industries.

While I understand that often participation in the career fairs is a choice by the employer rather than CareerLAB, there does not seem to have been a large effort made to represent a wider variety of employers. As Hannah Begley ’15 told The Herald last month, “CareerLAB and (the) career fair really try to herd students toward finance and consulting.”

Moreover, when CareerLAB mostly brings in finance companies, it perpetuates a vicious cycle. As Kevin Roose ’09 said in a Vox interview this year regarding the prevalence of Ivy Leaguers going into finance, “In a lot of schools it’s these scared organization kids going to Wall Street,” rather than people who actually want to be there. In the end, it tends to be the students with few other ideas who gravitate toward these companies, and CareerLAB isn’t helping in opening our minds to new possibilities.

These firms are looking for the best and the brightest in every field and advertise their jobs as two-year stints that one can easily leave, so they are appealing to wayward graduates. But this has a tendency to lead to unhappy and uninspired bankers rather than people who love their jobs.

Although I don’t think CareerLAB is trying to herd everyone into three limited fields, it does so inadvertently when the options we are seeing for employment as seniors have no variety. This is a very solvable problem. A wider variety of employers could mean that everyone leaving this school has chosen their job based on an informed — rather than limited — decision.

Most of the networking and talking to people in my industry of choice that I have done has come solely from my own efforts. I have acquired contacts through internships and friends, but I worry that I don’t know how to connect to other companies. Without the aid of a career fair geared toward my interests, I have to rely much more on my own limited network of people.

Old bosses and people in the publishing industry have all told me that the best networking they did wasn’t in their undergraduate years, but by participating in summer programs in publishing. It astonished me that more and more, those of us interested in careers other than technology and finance cannot rely on the resources — such as CareerLAB — created to help us navigate the confusing world of finding a job.

CareerLAB offers many resources that will facilitate our search for a job. But this sometimes still feels insufficient when I walk through a career fair and realize that my interests aren’t represented. I feel like I’m missing key companies and firms that could be a great fit for me, and I don’t know where to find them. CareerLAB needs to reach out more to companies in media and communications, but also to museums and galleries, to government employment not related to the military and even NGOs functioning outside the United States. Not all Brown students are interested in consulting, financial or technology careers, and I would like to see the diversity of interests better represented in career fairs.



Sami Isman ’15 wishes the New Yorker were as interested in coming to Brown as she is in working for them.

  • Job fiend

    You really know very little. These industries are over represented at the Career LAB because

    1. They actually do recruiting
    2. They are the only ones hiring in large numbers

    the New Yorker isn’t coming to Brown to recruit because there are people with years of journalism taking unpaid internships in the mail room…

    • Snap

      this is what i was going to say. companies pay Brown to recruit there…

    • Alum ’09

      While you’re totally right, I do think the CareerLAB should be deliberately putting in the time/effort/money to bring people/employers outside of banking/consulting/tech. Maybe not career fairs, but at least bringing alumni from these fields to campus to engage students. I can’t speak to what’s been done since I graduated so maybe they are doing that, but back in 05-09 the career center (what is was called then) was definitely finance/tech or GTFO.

      • Alum

        I agree that Brown needs to incorporate alums into the campus experience for students. I’m reticent to suggest the Career Center should be be taking part in that because then alums would be reluctant to come, knowing they’d get inundated with requests for jobs. That said, regular alumni-student interaction would strengthen the known formula: strong networks and bonds result in better recruiting–you hire who you know.

        The key I think are programs focused on projects based on mutual interest rather than explicit “networking”, you know the kind, where people say “Oh, I’m here because I want to network” and inside you vomit a little. With an emphasis of relationships over business cards, I think we could improve outcomes for students and the Brown alumni network. Afterall, that’s the thing that matters, not career fairs.

        • Alum ’09

          I think what you’re saying is a different idea (and one I totally support as well). I’m talking about getting alumni who were successful in lesser known or higher barrier to entry careers to come specifically share their experiences and educate students about what kinds of opportunities exist beyond brown besides tech, consulting, med/law/business school, or a PhD. The BRUnet thing is a nice addition that allows students to seek out this kind of info but it would have been nice to feel like the career office cared at all (or knew anything about) about helping me given that I wasn’t a CS major or interested in ibanking/consulting.

          • Alum

            Yes, I understood this was along the lines you first proposed. I am reluctant to support such an engagement between students and alumni framed in this manner because it is counterproductive in the goal of better placement opportunities for Brown students. Additionally, it would further add to a perceived pre-professional undercurrent which is counter to the notion of “you are what you do and the passions you follow” that is implicit in a Brown education and the kinds of careers to be had of which I believe you are intimating need to be made more present on campus. Blatant, active recruiting calls are counterproductive for making these such opportunities available because these kinds of businesses and individuals have no desire to recruit and “network.” They do not need to feed a conveyor belt to the corporate grind of IB, consulting, and coding monkeys filled with the souls of young innocents. Rather, the hiring practices of these professions follow the rule of thumb “hire who you know.” The decisions to hire at say a PE firm over a bank are more driven by relationships developed over time than applications scanned by HR lackeys and interviews conducted by the dozen.

            The way to draw these types to campus and interacting with students is not through explicit networking scenarios but rather events that they believe they can leverage, especially and better yet, if working alongside students. Then, relationships are built and knowledge does disseminate.

          • Alum ’09

            I agree that those events would be best – I wasn’t even proposing anything specific initially. Just countering job fiend’s point that it’s essentially not the career office’s fault that it’s only tech/finance. My point is that it is their fault and they should do something about it.

            I’m not talking specifically about explicit recruiting/networking. If anything I was envisioning something like various panels where people from different careers in various areas come to talk about what their careers are, what sorts of things you need to do to get in and answer questions. There’s no implied help of landing a job or that their company is hiring. They are simply meant to be voices to counteract the googles/mckinseys/lehmans that are plastered all over campus. To try and break the pre-professional undercurrent don’t we need to provide people with information about careers other than ones that come to actively recruit/network? That’s my point.

            I walked into the career office in the fall of 2008 as a student with a passion and some vague idea of the kinds of jobs I wanted to pursue and the career office had absolutely nothing to offer me because it was not tech/finance. I couldn’t’ have felt less supported. My own department however offered me great advice and I was able to secure exactly the type of job I wanted before graduating.

            If the career office wants to only be the pre-tech/finance office then great, call it that so that all the non tech/finance people know not to waste their time with them. If the office is meant to help people pursuing any career path, then I don’t care how much easier/cheaper it is to peddle finance/tech, do whatever it takes (events like you describe, explicit networking, etc. I really don’t care what they do as long as it helps) to advise people on other careers.

          • Alum

            To clarify: Any event with “careers” in the title or agenda is the wrong way about bringing these representatives to Brown.

            The problem is visibility and accessibility on/from campus, rather than a lack of informational panels. The problem is a lack of relationships with the kind of individuals in the desired fields of work.

            We see panels, the January Career lab, etc. and yet such individuals are not represented. The explicit “let’s talk about careers” or “networking” does not draw the desired result.

            The solution would appear to be a different approach, centered around building relationships through mutually beneficial/interesting projects for aligned students and alums. This would more closely mirror your successful interaction and outcome with your department and job placement.