There’s nothing quite like a job fair to make you feel older.
All that youth. All that potential. The future stretching as far as the eye can see.
Saturday was the annual event sponsored by the Indiana Associated Press Managing Editors and the Hoosier State Press Association Foundation.
It alternates between Ball State University and Franklin College, and this year was Ball State’s turn.
I’ve attended all but a few of these events since the project was launched by my old friend Andy Lippman of the AP. The first was a near disaster.
For some reason, no institution of higher learning was interested in hosting it, so we ended up crowding into offices of journalism faculty at IUPUI. We were back at IUPUI a few years later for a venue even less conducive to getting things done: The natatorium. It was chilly, and it echoed. It was like conducting job interviews in a bathroom.
The purpose of taking part in the event is simply to get an idea of what sort of young reporters are entering the talent pool. Other years, like this year, we have some newsroom vacancies we’d like to fill.
For the kids — sorry, budding young journalists — it’s an opportunity to practice interviewing skills while networking and finding out what jobs and internships may be available.
For some, it’s clearly their first attempt at such a thing.
And sometimes things don’t go all that well.
More than once, I’ve been handed a resume with a typo in it. Not really a good thing when you’re applying for a job at a newspaper.
Like the resumes, the attire for the day is often seeing its first use. The budding young journalists have bought their interview suit or new outfit. One nice young guy a couple of years ago still had the tags attached to the cuff of his suit jacket, sort of like Minnie Pearl and her hat.
Saturday’s crowd was a bit more polished than that, and they showed much more initiative than usual. Time and again, young folks stepped up, stretched out a hand, offered a smile, and asked if I had a few minutes to talk with them. It was precisely the sort of cold-call effort that impresses every editor.
By the end of the day, I’d conducted 14 interviews with students from Ball State, Purdue, Bowling Green, Grace, Earlham, and Hanover and maybe a couple of other schools. Not surprisingly, the interviews began to blur together after awhile.
About 3 p.m., I found myself wondering if I were repeating myself.
And the students were in the same boat, a little fuzzy on whether they’d answered the same question two minutes before.
On Sunday afternoon, I reviewed the resumes and jotted notes, delighted that some kids (sorry) stood out.
There was the young woman from Marion who got her first newspaper job in high school, going behind the back of her father who was an editor at the paper.
There was the young guy from Purdue who told me about the moment in an engineering class when he suddenly realized he had no interest in being an engineer, what he wanted to do was tell stories.
There was the young woman from Rensselaer who has worked long hours waiting tables to work her way through Ball State.
It was a good day, and it’s a good crop of talent entering journalism in Indiana.
But they’re all so doggoned young.