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.
Updated Dec 5, 2020
There are a number of reasons why recent college grads should consider post grad internships. In a perfect world, you bang out your final exams, graduate, maybe move to a new city, set up your new apartment and start your career at a well-paying job the week after graduation. Well, that idea has been thrown out the window – thanks COVID! For a lot people, post grad internships while we recover from COVID-19 might be the best short-term solution.
An 8-12 week post graduation internship might be a better alternative to taking any unfulfilling full-time job. The best scenario is a paid internship of course, however, if you find a flexible full-time job, you could still intern for 15-20 hours per week at the same time. Overall, the additional internship experience buys you time while you build your resume, look for a job and wait for the economy to bounce back. Doing an internship after college does not mean you’ve given up!
“75 percent of employers report that the primary focus of their internship program was to recruit college graduates for full-time, entry-level positions.”
1. Employers like to hire previous interns
According to a recent National Assocation of Colleges and Employers Survey, 75 percent of employers report that the primary focus of their internship program was to recruit college graduates for full-time, entry-level positions. For employers, the opportunity to work with an intern for a few months is the best way to observe if that person will be a good fit with the company long-term.
For you, internships let you determine if you want to work for the company or in that field. Getting invovled, working on projects and contributing to an employer through an intership is your best chance at showing them why they need to hire you. Be the exceptional intern and you could go from intern to employee before the internship is over.
2. Post grad internships can give you work experience
Post grad internships give you additional work experience. Work experience is the #1 thing employers look for in a new hires. Maybe you’ve heard people say, “how am I supposed to get experience if no one will hire me“, the answer is internships. Employers like to see internship experience because it shows that you have had a chance to apply your classroom knowledge in a real world setting. The classroom, your grade point average and the college you attended can only take you so far. You need to be able to show that you can contribute on the job and learn quickly. Use your internship to gain or improve new hard and soft skills which will make you more marketable.
Consider that in this post COVID-19 world, there are industries that have flondered and others that have flourished. A post grad internship could be the way to enter a different industry that you hadn’t thought of.
3. You’re not excited about your major
When you started your college career you may have been all gung-ho about your major. Somewhere along the way you just lost the excitement you once had. An internship in the field could confirm that you really don’t like it or remind you of why you were excited before. The good/bad thing about an internship is that it is for a set period of time. At the end of 8-12 weeks, if you find that you actually do hate the field, your co-workers or the company, you can leave with no strings attached.
I did eight internships in college. As a public relations major I did internships in business, sales, marketing, public affairs and public relations, in different sectors for companies and organizations of varying sizes. What I learned about myself, the workplace, and the skills I needed for each profession was invaluable! Getting beyond your major could be an eye opening experience for you.
4. Build Your Network
Networking is a major component to finding a job. Some surveys say that up to 85% of people find their jobs though networking. Your network might be bigger than you think when you stop to consider friends, family, fraternity or sorority connections, the university alumni network, religious affiliations and professional organizations. However large or small your network, spending time at an internship provides the opportunity to expand your network.
I recommend doing multiple informational interviews while at your internship to learn about different positions as well as the people in those roles. Networking opportunities can also lead to you meeting and connecting with mentors. Mentors are an incredible resource and you should make an effort to establish a relationships with someone who can be a mentor. The guidance of a mentor could help you clarify where you want to work and what you want to do.
5. Graduate school is expensive
I took two years off between my undergradate and graduate degrees. I thought I knew what I wanted. As graduation grew closer, I only seemed to get more confused about location, law school, grad school, b-school or going straight into the workforce. I returned home to Rochester, NY and landed my first full-time job in college admissions. That two years of work experience helped me gain clarity on my professional and academic goals, pay down some student loan debt and save money for moving to Maryland for graduate school.
In turn, the work experience I gained made getting a graduate assistantship (GA) an easier path for me. I was a GA in the Office of Student Affairs. As a graduate Assistant, my tuition was 100% covered the university in exchange for 15-20 hours of work per week. In addition to my tuition being covered, I was paid $12,000 per year. My graduate assistantship (similar to an internship) allowed me to continue to build my resume, get involved on campus and helped clarify my professional goals. It also saved me about $25,000.
6. Where to find post grad internships
So if you’ve established that a post grad internship might be a good idea, what’s next. There are some companies that have been doing post grad internships for years.
Those are just a few companies offering post grad internships. Check sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, Monster and other job search engines. Also, subscribe to my Diversity Internship Directory, a comprehensive listing of companies looking for diverse interns and new hires. Depending in the industry, it migh be easier post COVID-19 to find an internship over a full-time job.
7. You can perfect your job searching skills
If you can master the internship search process, you will be better at searching for a job. For either purpose, job or internship, you need to put together a well-crafted resume and cover letter. Putting together a superstar level LinkedIn profile is also a necessity in todays competitive work environment. If you have never been on a professional job interview, interviewing for internships can help you gain confidence in your interviewing skills.
Deciding to do an internship post-grad doesn’t mean you just apply for everything you see and hope for the best. Develop a strategy and understand what type of internship you are looking for. What skills do you want to enhance or learn? Is there a particular industry or company you want to work for? Just like your job search, your internship should be focused too. My free Internship and Job Tracker walks you through the steps of getting your internship game plan together.
The key to success is to be proactive. Get your resume together, apply, network, learn new skills, practice interviewing and do an internship. Evaluate what you want and see if it is in line with the skills you bring to the table. It may not happen overnight, but you will breakthrough.
If an internship is not your choice, then jump into your first post graduation job, make a few dollars and understand that it is only the beginning!