At some point during the semester, I would be walking around campus and find myself surrounded by people dressed in suits or formal clothing. I would realize that it was career fair week. Many of my peers have traded in their T-shirt and jeans for a suit and tie, flip-flops for business heels. This year, the Eberly College of Science provided a Fall Career Days Science Employer Reception for science students.
My astronomy lab professor gave us a mission to find out what jobs astronomy majors can get. Since we arrived early, we helped ourselves to some food while waiting for employers to arrive. We looked around at the various tables set up: companies like Kimberly-Clark, PwC, Brenntag, Merck & Co. would have representatives coming. Out of 14, I could only recognize Kimberly-Clark, Capital One, and the CIA. I have never thought about working for a major company. Considering their interests and my own, I can't say we have much in common. I was curious nonetheless.
As more people joined the reception, lines began forming at tables where there were representatives. The students, in "business casual" attire, had sleek black folders that held their resumes. The group of us from class went up to three tables based on the least number of people waiting - we wanted the chance to at least ask some questions.
The first company we spoke to was Corning, Inc. They make glass and ceramics. When the two representatives discussed in detail what they do, I recognized the importance of their work. Glass is everywhere, but I don't give much thought to it. I've been to a glass-blowing place and found it to be cool, but that was it. We asked the representatives what jobs they offered would suit astronomy majors. When they heard "astronomy," they immediately responded that there wasn't much, although they do hire physics majors. Well, we can go into a deep discussion about the need to publicize astronomy and the actual lack of difference between physics and astronomy majors, but that should be saved for another time. They mentioned that the physics majors they hire usually go into research and development. Teamwork is an important aspect of working there, and the collaborative nature of science prepares us well.
The second company was Capital One, which is a bank. The representative had less comments about majors but more about skills they look for. They offer internships for juniors in college and full-time positions for after graduation. He thought that, with analytical skills, the position of operations analyst would be a good fit. We could also be in customer service and analyze customer data. There is also the ITDP (Information Technology Development Program). We would be able to take part in coding and development.
While we were speaking to Capital One, the Dean of the College gave an official welcoming speech. The Dean mentioned the growing of international connections. After the speech, we resumed our discussion with the Capital One representative and I brought up how knowing multiple languages might be beneficial. He said that, outside the United States, Capital One operates in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the Philippines.
The third table we visited hosted the US Nuclear Regulatory Committee. They usually hire chemical, nuclear, or mechanical engineers. Something relevant to astronomy majors would be nuclear research. Future options include working at a power plant and overseeing it, or working at a medical facility that handles radioactive waste.
Our experience at the reception was encouraging overall. Although we may not have found our dream career, it was still helpful for future reference. The Capital One representative informed me about case interviews, which is when an interviewer presents a problem, and they see how you solve it. They examine your assumptions and clarity of solution. In general, the abilities to analyze and communicate is important for any job. As one of the representatives put it, they look for candidates who are both collaborative and competitive.