Acing the Career Fair – Part 1

Corina Tudose

As an undergraduate student, all I was hearing was: go look for an internship! You will get a sense of what the work world is all about, it will help you find a job after graduation, make connections, and many more things that will benefit you in the long run, maybe even make some extra cash. So, there I went, looking everywhere for an opportunity to get THE internship that will help me do all that.

One place that made the most sense to look for an internship was the annual Career Fair. However, it was a place where I always felt awkward. Saying hi to people I didn’t know, staying in line to talk to “hot” recruiters and simply feeling lost in the midst of all the commotion and the people, while all dressed up and running in between classes. However, the two internships I had throughout my undergraduate career were a result of career fairs. Despite my fear of this environment, I made it work.

So, what did I find to be useful? I will start with the most important discovery: do the research! There are so many companies that come to career fairs and not all of them will fit your profile. Target a few that you are interested in, either due to their industry or job postings, or anything else that you think is a good fit, and go talk to those people. The point of the career fair is to talk to the recruiters that might hire you and the companies you like. Whether that means you talk to ten or two people, it doesn’t matter. You only need one person to hire you! Spend one hour to create a “yes” and a “maybe” list of companies and your career fair experience will be worthwhile.

The second most important discovery: show up prepared! Don’t just ask a recruiter what does the company do? Sure, it gets them talking but it will make your resume land in the “NO” pile. Ask about what opportunities are available and talk about why you are interested in working there. Give your “elevator speech” of who you are, what you are studying and a quick line about why you are a catch – you are the President of a club, you are an athlete, you won a prize at a science fair or you volunteered for a whole summer in Africa. By telling them a unique thing about yourself, you make sure that they will remember you specifically when you send them a follow-up email. By being prepared you land the “YES” resume pile and you increase your chances of an interview.

While Career Fairs are intimidating and impersonal to some extent, by doing your research and being prepared you transform the experience to a personal way of networking and maybe even landing a great internship.

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