Canary in a Flock of Penguins

An ocean of students in suits and pad-folios flooded UT Campus this past week. Career Week. The partially heat-related, partially nerves-related sweat could be smelled in the air.

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Career week  is nerve-racking for a number of reasons:

  1. The recruiters you talk to could be the people hiring you.
  2. Everyone wants an internship or job.
  3. Saying the “correct thing” can be daunting.
  4. Standing out is difficult. 

“Set yourself apart from everyone else.”

This is a piece of advice that gets tossed into the mix every second or so. The ironic thing is that it’s cliched advice. Of course everyone wants to stand out. We all want to be special so that we can be the candidate our desired company wants to hire above everyone else. However, this is easier said than done.

McCombs has a strict standard for how its students dress to events like the Career Expo. There’s even a bouncer at the door to stop any “sloppy dressers” from entering. It makes sense that McCombs does this; UT wants to exude professionalism. Walking into Career Expo is somewhat akin to walking into a zoo and seeing flocks of penguins gathering at different feeding stations. (Don’t we sort of look like them in our suits?) So the question remains: how do you set yourself apart from the pack? How can you be the canary in a flock of penguins? These are a few non-dress-code related things that I tried.

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  1. Ask Unique Questions: One of the recruiters I was talking to at the expo told me that at the end of the day, he tallied how many students had asked him to “please tell them about the finance opportunities offered at the company” (approximately 150 times). Not only can this information be found online via a quick Google search, the same question get annoying. We have to realize that much like us, recruiters are human. They get bored after repeating the same thing over and over.  Research the company and come up with questions that will get the recruiter talking about things that he or she enjoys. If the person enjoys the conversation with you, chances are you’ll leave a positive, lasting impression.
  2. Follow Up: Very often, we will talk to someone and then never follow up. Even if you made a good impression, it might not last because the recruiter will forget who you are. Take the recruiter’s business card and thank them via email or even a quick phone call for talking with you. Recall specific parts of your conversation to include in your thank you so that they will remember you.
  3. Use humor: We often forget that recruiters are human. Humans like to laugh. It’s okay to crack a joke once in a while, and it can actually be quite refreshing. I actually got an interview last week because I let my sense of humor loose. I’m not saying to make inappropriate comments or try your best stand-up comedy lines. I’m just saying that sometimes being too serious is actually a hindrance. There are hundreds of students in the room that are also seriously gunning for a job. Smile. Laugh. Be confident enough in what you’ve done.

Hopefully these tips help. If you have any of your own, feel free to comment! Remember: even if you have to look like a penguin, it doesn’t mean that you’re not actually a canary.

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