I’ve been accused over the years of having unrealistically high expectations of people and I’m sure in some cases it’s true. However, the preponderance of things that really make me get hot under the collar are so low on the expectations spectrum, they really are hard for me to wrap my mind around. Which brings me to what not to do/wear to an MBA admissions fair.
If you’re not familiar with graduate school fairs, the idea is simple enough–colleges and universities send representatives to key cities around the world to meet with prospective students. Some fairs attract hundreds of students and institutions of higher learning. Admissions representatives are trying to stand out from all of the other schools to reel in the best and brightest students. Prospective students are trying to gather information about target schools, present themselves well, and also to get a feel for each program’s culture. Given the goals of the event, it shouldn’t come as a shocker that both groups want to put their proverbial best foot forward. But that doesn’t always seem to be the case for some attendees. Following are some random observations.
Don’t bring a Teacup Chihuahua. I was going to specify graduate school fair, but I think this should be a universal rule for any fair (job fair, state fair, renaissance fair, health fair, etc.) Would you be taken by surprise if you saw a guy carrying a Teacup Chihuahua as he went from table to table? Are my expectations too high on this one?
Blue jeans, by any other color, are still blue jeans—and blue jeans are generally bad when you want to present yourself as an aspiring business professional. I specify color as I’ve had conversations with students on guidelines for business professional dress and they try to find a loophole by wear black jeans because I mentioned that blue jeans weren’t acceptable. I wonder if those students end up working as attorneys??
It’s generally a good idea to tuck in your shirt. I know that might come as a shocker, but I think people want to know you are willing to put in that little extra effort required to tuck in your shirt…especially if you’re wearing jeans. I’m no fashionista (or would that be fashionisto? So much for four years of high school Spanish), but I’m going to say I think it looks bad at a graduate school fair.
Stiletto heels. As with the previous point, you won’t be seeing me as a judge on Project Runway, but I’m pretty sure stilettos are a bit on the high side at recruiting functions.
If you’re only there to grab free stuff, at least try to be subtle about it. I actually watched a guy come up, reach in front of someone who was in the middle of a conversation with a representative from one of the schools, so he could grab a handful of free pens. I can see making a mad dash if they were giving away Mont Blancs, but the pens were probably 50-75 cents each. Was that really necessary? It’s just a hunch, but I don’t think that guy was there to make friends and influence people…I think he was there for the schwag.
I often find myself wondering where common sense has gone and if it’s ever going to make its way back into the mainstream. If it’s gone for good, maybe I’ll adopt myself a Teacup Chihuahua, un-tuck my shirt, throw on some black jeans, put on some heels, grab a handful of free pens, and ride off into the sunset.
Shawn Graham is author of Courting Your Career: Match Yourself with the Perfect Job (www.courtingyourcareer.com).