by Adreon Patterson

Photo by Adreon Patterson.

SCAD Career Fair is that time of year where students and alumni gather in Savannah, Ga. to test the employment waters. First and second-year students are more like spectators, while their upperclassmen network and vie for any opportunity available.  Like any job fair, the SCAD Career Fair has its share of pros and cons. But the real question is: as a graduate student, was the Career Fair worth all the hassle and stress?

I need to preface this with a quick note: I have never had the best outlook on the event. As a SCAD undergrad, I had mix results at the fair. I built connections in some instances, while I felt like the companies were pitching to me rather than me to them. It was disheartening as an undergrad trying to make a career for myself. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I can speak on my latest situation.

With graduation around the corner, I’ve been searching for jobs for months. While I build my freelance business slowly, the Fair seemed the best option for my post-graduate life. As the fair approached, I did everything required to secure my spot for the bus trip to Savannah. I attended as many prep sessions as possible, while getting more acquainted with the Career and Alumni Success staff.

Photo by Adreon Patterson.

As I walked through the parking lot and towards the main building, I was greeted by the staff before being directed to the check-in point. There were two somewhat organized lines for check-in and waiting for the bus. The chartered luxury buses were 30 minutes late, which caused a domino effect as the loading and departure times were pushed back. Once they arrived, students, alumni and staff loaded onto the buses before leaving the main campus for Savannah.

When we got to the fair, I emerged to fulfill my strategic plan — start small and work my way towards the big boys. I set a goal to see five to ten employers before the event ended. I had to act quickly as our late arrival shortened my networking time. I surveyed the event space before heading to my first employer. At first, my plan went well as I hit up smaller companies’ Boston Consulting and Mailchimp.

I felt I was more of a quota filler, rather than a legitimate candidate (even when the personnel looked like me). But along the way, I started to feel a little out of place as I tried balancing the visual and writing sides of my portfolio. It worked in some instances while failing in others. I tried fitting so many molds that I boxed myself into an artistic conundrum.

Photo by Adreon Patterson.

My patience was tested as each employer line swelled with prospective candidates. The lines for Awesome Inc. and Hero 4 Hire alone were mind-numbing. I didn’t heed to my own standards and stood in line for almost 50 minutes. I eventually cut my losses and started scoping out more opportunities. My talks with Bento Box and Floyd County were informative and interesting. I must admit I might have been underqualified for those animation titans.

I spent the rest of my time doing an on-site interview and checking out the workshops. By the end of the fair, I was over it. I felt drained — emotionally and artistically — from trying to impress people that may or may not even give me a second look. The Atlanta students soon piled back on the buses and headed back, with fast food pitstops, aching feet and rain in the forecast.

As a graduate student, I believe the SCAD Career Fair is meant more for undergrads than graduate students and alumni. Most of the companies were looking for fresh faces with new perspectives, not world-weary and somewhat jaded professionals. Even though the Career Fair has grown since my undergrad days, I still see the same tried-and-true formula — to impress companies with little interest and unclear standards in potential candidates.