The Art(s) in Career Fair Networking

If you’re a civil engineering major, or an accounting or management minor, the Fall Career Fair held in the SUB last week was a veritable mecca. You probably spent a good hour or more weaving through congested hall space, talking with HR reps and PR people and picking up pens and little squishy balls. You probably got at least three business cards with a cell phone number handwritten on it. Good for you.

If you’re a member of the School of Arts and Architecture, or even the College of Letters & Science, you probably spent all of five minutes looking at the booth list before you left.

There were few businesses that catered toward art and multimedia students at the career fair, which makes sense, because there are comparatively few businesses catered toward art and multimedia at all. Still, the asymmetry among the booths was noticeable, at the very least; in the sea of students identified by name tags as business or engineering majors, there were exactly zero students who work with design, image or words as their medium.

Career fairs are not generally where these students go to find jobs. Self-motivated degree programs beget self-motivated producers, people who are more apt to develop online portfolios and seek out internship positions through chance and social capital than to go through a more traditional route of career acquisition. There is no industry waiting for a musician or sculpture B.F.A. to graduate, which sucks.

This is why hosting a handful of booths ripe for artists and students eager for cross-application of skills would be a welcome addition. Even those students with a more directed academic path, such as computer science, could appreciate a ballroom that is not choked thick with construction firms, resource-management companies and little else.

That’s not to say that students are growing soft and sluggish in the desire for easy networking. Professors and curricula alike still stress self-directed promotion, and even the field-trip style film class that deposits students in L.A. demands creativity and motivation. The message is still there and is still getting reception.

What better way to implement and practice this message than to invite professionals onto the home turf where they can be buffeted by a sea of eager students? The soul of networking is the management of people, a difficult skill to gain. Lecturing about the importance of management is one thing; providing opportunities to flex the management muscle is another, arguably more important activity. MSU’s students, like all students, have room to grow in regards to networking, so one more chance to practice is desirable.

So, when fortune smiles upon a spunky film or graphic design student, he might be able to worm his way into some internship at Target or Proctor & Gamble and receive a deck of business cards bearing the title of Communications Manager or something else vaguely related to his specialty. For those of us who’d like more direct opportunities, the presence of the meager sum of media production houses who’d be game to appear on campus would be an effective contribution to career-building. As small a contribution as it would be, such interactions are what make an art degree worthwhile.