I’ve been on both sides of the table as a student and company representative at hundreds of college, internship and career fairs. I want to let you know, missing the career fair could mean a missed opportunity for making connections, networking and information gathering.
Many college students fail to take advantage of the great opportunity these events present to meet future employers. As a college student, no matter if your school calls it a Career/Internship Fair or a Graduate School/Career Fair, you should make it your business to be there.
Employers Are There to Meet You
Employers attend career fairs because they get to meet a variety of students from all academic backgrounds in one place. You should attend because it would otherwise be almost impossible for you to meet so many prospective employers from across the country at once. This is your shot to not just be another application on the internet, but to instead make an impression.
Beyond the obvious reasons of looking for an internship or a job, also consider attending a career fair as a chance to learn about companies and professions that you may not have previously considered, get advice from company recruiters on how to stand out, and to network.
Five Steps for Succes at a Career Fair
So what can you do if you have a career fair coming up soon on your campus? Here are five simple steps for a successful career fair experience.
- When you approach a company representative – smile. A smile goes a long way. By just being pleasant, smiling, and friendly you are already starting off on the right foot.
- Offer a firm handshake. Don’t just stand there and stare at the information on the table. Make eye contact and extend your hand for a handshake. Say your name, class year and major for starters.
- Dress appropriately. As boring as it may sound, dust off the suit and tie and shine those shoes. Most university career centers can give you detailed guidance on appropriate business attire for the career fair.
- Do your research on the companies in attendance a few days before the fair. You will be able to create a target list of companies that you want to visit first. Target lists aren’t just about hitting up the most popular companies; research is about finding companies that fit with your career or internship goals. Doing research will also help you create good questions to ask the representatives.
- In addition to having prepared questions for your target companies, also prepare 2-4 general questions you can ask any representative.
Career Services is Your First Stop
First things first, stop by your college career center and find out when the next event will be. While I am sure you can find that information much quicker online, if you have never visited career services then this is your motivation to go find the office.
While you are there, make an appointment to work with a career counselor or advisor to get your resume reviewed. You will need a well-crafted resume when talking to the reps from the companies at the fair. If you missed the fall fair, ask if there will be a spring event. If missed them both, then look for some public job fairs to attend to put your new skills into action. When I was in college, college fair connections led to a paid internship and a full-time job offer for me. If you know how to “work” the fair, it can be a game-changer for your internship and/or job search.
Now is the time to start looking for your summer internship. Don’t get distracted and put off your search until the spring when some of the best opportunities might be gone. Download your free Internship Manual Toolkit to get on track and stay focused on getting your dream gig.
In today’s competitive marketplace, internships are no longer optional for graduates who want to successfully transition from student to working professional. A pivotal role, parents can help and hurt in the internship search process.
Even the most well meaning parents can get too involved, while others might feel they don’t have anything to contribute. The truth is somewhere in the middle.
Internships: The Great Equalizer
I spent five years managing a national internship program that placed students from across the country in paid internships with major media companies. From major television networks, to Hollywood studios, professional sports leagues, telecom companies and other facets of the media world, these internships were all paid and highly competitive.
No matter what school they attended, at the start of every summer my students were all equally set to spend the summer at an awesome major media company internship. Internships can be the great equalizer when it comes to the job search. The students in my program came from different colleges, with different price tags and prestige levels… but all earned top notch internship opportunities.
How parents can hurt the internship search
Do not take over
Resist the urge to do the leg work. It is not your internship search. This is the practice run before the job search happens after graduation. Parents can be a resource, pass on information and make introductions. They might make mistakes, not follow up in the appropriate time frame or some other error, but they will learn. Be there to offer suggestions, but do not take over the search process.
Depending on when you last searched for a job, the tools and the landscape may have changed. Companies regularly use Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to look for interns and new employees. LinkedIn is the top networking site for professionals to connect and resumes no longer include objectives or references. Parents could unknowinlgy be providing outdated advice.
Do not write their resume
Unless you happen to be a career coach or work in human resources, send them to career services at school to get help crafting a professional resume. You pay tuition, use career services! Resume formats may have very well changed a lot since the last time you wrote a resume. Resume and cover letter writing are skills that students should master in college.
Do not do their follow up for them
If your child applies for an internship, DO NOT call the company to inquire about the application. If your child fails to follow up, take it as a lesson learned. Nothing shows an employer that the prospect is not ready for a professional internship like having “mommy” call to check on things.
Do not go on the interview.
Just don’t. Drop them off and keep it moving.
How parents can help in the search process
Do start the conversation
Start a conversation about when and where they are planning to start looking for their dream internship opportunity. The beauty in this process is that you can start searching for internships at anytime. Most students and parents fail to realize that many of the best summer internship deadlines happen in the fall. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the New York Times Newsroom, Google, Facebook are just a few internships with fall deadlines for the following summer.
While working at a big name company is a get for anyone’s resume, the goal is any quality internship. In my Internship Manual Toolkit, I provide a complete timeline to help with the internship search process, no matter the time of year.
Do establish expectations
Even if it is not required for graduation, make doing internships a requirement for your support.
Discuss when they plan on doing them and periodically check on their progress. Require that they visit the career services office to have their resume reviewed and that they participate in a mock interview – all before senior year.
Set the expectation with them for how many internships they will aim to complete before graduation, and hold them responsible for execution of the plan.
Do help them dress professionally
Most colleges have a fall and/or spring job fair on campus. These events are usually free and bring hundreds of employers right to the campus. Ask your student when this event is being held at their school.
The dress code at a job fair is usually professional dress. Send your child off to college with a few professional wardrobe items. For young men, a suit would be great but a shirt, tie and khakis or dress pants and shoes are a start. Young ladies, a suit would be nice, however, a classic white shirt and properly fitting dark colored dress pants or skirt, with a blazer is a start.
Do Not show up at the college fair.
Do let them experience rejection
In the event the internship search results in a rejection from a dream internship, Do NOT call the company and ask what happened. You can encourage them to make the call, but if they don’t, let it go. The same will hold true when they don’t get that first dream job. Rejection is a part of life and it is no longer your job to try and fix it. If that company was having second thoughts and you called, you might have ruined their chances. No one wants to hire an intern… and their parents.
Do encourage exploration
My philosophy is that students should engage in multiple internships so that they can stretch their wings. So often students, and parents, can be laser focused on one major and career choice, often to only find they don’t like it. Job hoping too quick after graduation can be frowned upon, but trying multiple internships is acceptable behavior.
Between freshman year and graduate school I completed eight internships. Internships in non-profit management, marketing, public relations, publishing, journalism, sales and business. My B.A is in Public Relations and my MS in Professional Writing.
In addition to hands on experience, internships are also about learning about work environments, office politics, dealing with politics at work and many other adult issues that might be uncomfortable. The more exposure, the more prepared anyone can be when the real work world comes knocking on the door.
Internships are becoming the currency to employment after graduation. Landing a desirable job with little-to-no experience can be a difficult task. However, students who participate in one or more internships have starting salaries that are on average $15,000 more than their classmates who did not.
Don’t let internships be optional. Take these steps to support and encourage your student to find and complete as many internships as possible.