I attended my first career fair unintentionally. I was at a conference, and as I walked past one of the meeting rooms on my return from lunch I saw tons of people standing in long lines in front of small tables. I was willing–maybe eager–to skip the next series of talks, so I decided to investigate. I walked up to one of the few tables with no line and asked the woman behind it what was happening. “It’s a career fair,” she replied. “Are you looking for a job?”
What a lucky break! Without even trying, I was about to start my job search. So I spent the afternoon answering questions about what kind of research I did and what type of jobs I might want, but my answers weren’t well thought-out. I knew nothing about the companies attending and I had no strategy. But I collected a wealth of useless items like refrigerator magnets, key-chain flashlights, and business cards, and when the afternoon ended I felt great: The recruiters knew me now, so it was only a matter of time until one of them called me up and offered me a great job. Or so I thought.