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My university is hosting a career fair I'd like to attend.

I want to take a couple of hours to go to this and learn about other companies, projects, and talk to representatives of some of the larger tech companies. Google will be there, for example.

However my current employer will also have a booth there, and everyone in upper management is familiar with everyone else's face. There is no way I won't be seen.

I am not an intern. I am pursuing my Masters.

How could I approach my manager about this to avoid any subsequent awkwardness / career ending vibes at my current company the next day?

Update: Thanks for the great suggestions. I ended up mentioning it to my manager the next day, and he even suggested I go so I might send a few more classmates his way. I also learned a lot about how other companies structure their internship programs, as well as what technologies their interns develop in, which I noted down for any future interns I mentor at my current company.

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    "subsequent awkwardness / career ending vibes at my current company the next day" - why do you expect that? Are you going there on sick-leave? I guess not. So what? Checking out competitors is not a bad thing after all? – Fildor Sep 15 '17 at 15:04
  • Its a job fair. Why else would you be interested in meeting Google at a job fair. As your current employer this would raise and eye brow.... – Mister Positive Sep 15 '17 at 15:30
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    is there any way you can go in an official capacity / helper for your company? Then you can roam around on your own as time allows and "network" (which is generally not frowned on, at least, not in any reasonable sense) – NKCampbell Sep 15 '17 at 15:31
  • Just to be clear, you're currently a student at university U, which is hosting this fair, and you work (full-time?) at a completely separate employer E, which does expect you to stick around after finishing the degree, right? – Kevin Sep 15 '17 at 20:59
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I would handle this by making my way around fair looking for my employer. And then I would use the chance to network with the senior leadership of my company.

I would assume you do not have a great deal of opportunity to socialize with your upper management in your normal activities(at least I never have and most people I know do not) so attending these type of events when they are handy is a great opportunity for networking and meeting people play an important role in your life, even if indirectly. Even if you do have a chance to interact with them at work this is an opportunity to do so with less of a focus on work tasks but in a less formal but still businesslike manner.

Being an introvert myself, it is often hard for me to remember that not everyone prefers to be left alone unless they need something. Networking is an important part of career building. Many people who stagnate in their career while trying to climb the ladder do so because they fail to network effectively.

Your upper management is there because they understand the value of networking and are in fact networking themselves. They understand that meeting people who will be up and coming professionals is a good thing for them. Even if those people move on to other companies, those relationships can be leveraged later on.

So when you find your company take the opportunity to chat with as many of your companies leaders as you can. Be friendly, let them know you like the company, and let them know you are there to network and meet people. If you are there for class anyway it can be good to let them know that, but I would not feel obliged to make an excuse beyond taking advantage of the career fair to network.

While you are there talking with other companies take the opportunities to learn how those companies handle issues you are dealing with. They are tools you can use in the future. Make contacts with people in other companies you might be able to leverage in the future, maybe even in your current role which would benefit your current company.

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    This. Just stop by and introduce yourself. "Hi, I'm Jim from accounting. I just finished my class and wanted to see how our booth is doing?" Network there for 10 - 15 minutes, then move on. – ventsyv Sep 15 '17 at 19:07
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    Even better if he can wrangle an invitation to help man the booth for some time. – Kevin Sep 15 '17 at 21:01
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Bring a friend along

Go to the fair with your friend and visit your company's booth first under the guise that you are helping your friend research for new job opportunities (you being a natural guide as you are an experienced tech worker). Then since you have arrived together at this event it is only natural that you tag along with them to the other booths as your friend continues "their" research. You could even make a joke about "spying on the competition".

It is slightly Machiavellian but this way you are able to attend the function without outwardly slighting your company.

Since you are a student I have no doubt you must have fellow classmates who are looking for jobs. Giving one of them an "in" with your company (by introducing them to your coworkers) would probably be greatly appreciated so your cloak and dagger operation doesn't have to be entirely self-serving.

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I think that is a sticky situation and you are justified in concern on how to handle it. Despite you still being a student, I assume your current position is not an internship; or, if it is, you have been offered a full time position upon graduation.

If it is an internship, then your out is easy:

I am looking for a full time position and considering any and all offers.

A key part of this is to why you are looking. If you are not really working in your major, you also have an out:

While I love working for you, I want to do more work aligned with my major.

One way to do this, that borders on dishonest, is to say it is part of a class assignment. You were required to present resumes to engage and present resumes to several companies with the goal of having the mini-interviews that often occur at these events. While I rarely advocate this kind of thing your employer's approach to loyalty may warrant this sort of behavior. To make it less dishonest, you could solicit your professors to give you such an assignment.

Another approach is to not do anything. Just go and give our resumes. Say hello to your coworkers as you pass. They may not notice, care, or remember. Those events tend to be intensive and one tends to meet many more people than one is used to in a very short time. Personally I would lean towards this one.

Another approach is to sit down with your manager and express your concerns. I would first talk to coworkers to get a feel on how the company views loyalty. And go slowly. First bring up the job fair and ask him his thoughts on it. His response to this is really a key and you need to be very fluid. If he is too busy, then you can probably proceed without being noticed. If he stares at you sideways and says "why do you ask"? Then you need to drop it, you will be seen as un-loyal.

Good luck, this is a tough situation.

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    I like part of your answer. Maybe I can give you some info to help trim your answer / suggested approach. I'm not an intern, am working full time, and pursuing my masters at the same time, which I don't expect help on from my current company. – DeepDeadpool Sep 15 '17 at 15:38
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    I would prefer to keep those in there as this answer is, potentially, not only for you but also others that may come along with the same question. – Pete B. Sep 15 '17 at 15:40
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However my current employer will also have a booth there, and everyone in upper management is familiar with everyone else's face. There is no way I won't be seen.

This isn't all that difficult.

If you don't wish to be seen, don't go. Attend a job fair hosted by some other university.

If you don't care if you are seen, go.

You have to decide the risk to your current employment if you are detected looking for a job at a job fair, and if that's a risk you are willing to accept or not.

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