By now many Lawrentians, but especially seniors, are beginning to consider the prospect of ditching old jeans for slacks and sharing a cubicle with a disenchanted fifty-something worker in the ‘real world.’ It can be a sobering thought. Adding to this frustration is the often-necessary process of networking.
Presented as a casual chance to simply converse with people whom one wouldn’t normally socialize with in order to wring out a job, or at least job connections, networking can often feel like nothing more than applicants sipping cocktails and slipping in their accomplishments to bait their superiors. While genuine connections certainly are made, these events can be exhausting because there is always a Machiavellian bent to the conversations.
One of the criticisms aimed at liberal arts colleges is that they don’t arm students with the right tools to hold their own in the job world. And when it comes to networking, it’s understandable why Lawrentians might be at a disadvantage. Cooped up in the 84 acres of campus, there is little chance for interactions with anyone other than fellow students, faculty and staff, who often share a lot of the same values and experiences. Over the course of four years, the bubble can create an insular and familiar community. So when Lawrentians encounter a suit in a job fair who might even dare to be fiscally conservative, it can come as a shock that Lawrentians can’t simply ‘be themselves,’ as they would in the classroom.
At places like job fairs and other networking events, it is clear that one must edit, parse and conceal parts of oneself, like a resume, to make the most of the connections available. It can feel fake and dishonest. While in an ideal world we wouldn’t have to edit ourselves to succeed, it’s an important skill to have. The concession, then, and the way to get around it, is to recognize that employers are all too aware of this, as well. We’re all trapped in this cycle, so embrace the solidarity and start practicing that smile.