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Younger undergrads shouldn’t fear BOC/TOC

Younger undergrads shouldn’t fear BOC/TOC (credit: Josh Smith/Forum Editor) Younger undergrads shouldn’t fear BOC/TOC (credit: Josh Smith/Forum Editor)
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Dressed in suit jackets, pleated pants or dress skirts, and black shoes, students have pained looks on their faces; stress and mild anticipation etched onto the taut skin over their foreheads.

It’s that time of year again.

The Technical Opportunities Conference (TOC) and the Business Opportunities Conference (BOC) — two of Carnegie Mellon’s networking opportunities for the fall semester — stormed through campus last week, bringing with them a variety of recruiters from across the country.

And, as tradition dictates, first-years and sophomores jumped on the chance to complain about the lack of opportunities provided to them at these conferences. Recruiters don’t take them seriously; nobody will consider their résumés; it’s pointless to go, they say.

While these complaints are justified — recruiters look for students immersed in their major’s coursework with previous internships — and many first-years and sophomores will not land an internship through the conferences, going to them is not a waste of time.

If you’re a first-year or sophomore, you may receive some snarky comments from an uptight recruiter. You might even be dismissed by them after revealing your undergraduate status. Nevertheless, attending the conferences is a good experience.

Not only do they allow you to get your foot in the door, but they also give you the chance to refine your résumé and hand it out. Even if recruiters don’t take the document seriously, you gain experience from writing a résumé and approaching recruiters about your interests in their companies.

You can also take the opportunity to see how the conferences work — dressing up and experiencing the lines and booths. By the time you’re able to seriously pursue an internship or job at the TOC and BOC, you’ll be a seasoned veteran at the game. You can also experience the phenomenon of an uninterested company so you aren’t flustered if it happens your junior year. On the other hand, it never hurts to experience elation at a company’s impressed remarks.

Attendance at the conferences also allows you to scope out the job market — and the competition. Many companies consistently show up to the TOC and BOC. This gives you the chance to eye those that capture your interest. You can then work toward making yourself marketable to those specific businesses in the future.

As a result, you’ll be able to enter the job fairs in later years with a focused mind and experience. Going to the career fairs early also provides the opportunity to see what type of internships or jobs peers are applying for. Try to notice what makes them stand out to recruiters and use this knowledge to shape your own skill sets.

You might even be surprised by a call from a recruiter after the fairs. Plenty of sophomores make it to the first round of interviews or further for a company they expressed interest in, with many landing internships the summer after their sophomore year. Once you’ve been contacted by a recruiter, the job or internship is fair game.

Even though the TOC and BOC have come and gone, more job fairs are on the way. The Employment Opportunities Conference takes place Oct. 11, with about 150 organizations out to snatch up some new recruits. Don’t downplay the importance of the job fairs on campus: There are opportunities for every level of experience there, even if they may be hidden behind the intimidating number of recruiters seemingly looking for people with more experience.