This time of year is filled with football, coffee, and hoodies, but for students it also brings about one of the most stressful parts of the year: career fairs and internships. Whether you’re a freshman looking for your first internship or a senior trying to land your first job, the process can be intimidating, demanding, and overwhelming. While you were there, hopefully you were handing out resumes left and right. While you probably talked to different employers than you planned on, you might have found some hidden gems along the way. Last week marked the fifth career fair I’ve attended, and I feel like I finally know the in’s and out’s of how to “win” a career fair. I thought that I’d pass on some advice for students looking for those internships and what to do after the fair:
1. For the companies you are interested in (or all of them for that matter), get on their website and see what they have to offer. Check out projects they’ve recently worked on, find what the company values and emphasizes, read the intern blog, look for contacts or networking opportunities. Basically, just scour the website for any information that will help you become more knowledgeable about the company.
2. If you still have questions, call or email someone. Employers love to hear that students have done their research and are interested in the company. This will make sure you are in contact with the right people and help you network throughout HR and the company.
3. Apply online. This one is a biggie. Most likely you have heard this over and over, but going online and applying for jobs (if you haven’t already) will help your potential employer match your face from the career fair to you resume and online application.
4. Prioritize. You won’t be making six figure salaries or building the next spaceship to Mars from the bottom up at your first job (if you find one like this, let me know), but you should still have some expectations going in. Figure out what matters to you. For example, I am engaged by companies that have a culture I can connect with, will help me develop professionally, and are somewhere I can see myself enjoying my work.
5. Keep in mind that not all companies are for everyone. There is a fit for everyone. You shouldn’t feel like you are “begging” for a job. You have a unique set of skills that can benefit an employer just as much as they can benefit you. Learn to market yourself appropriately and you will be able to find that perfect fit.
6. Know that you have options. There are other resources besides career fairs. I know that at K-State we have online career services, a Career and Employment Office, and department-specific resources to help students succeed. If you are dedicated enough to search out the jobs, the opportunities are there.
Career Fair season can be overwhelming. I’ve been the one that was super stressed out, worrying about where to go, who to talk to, and what to do. If you are worried about getting that job or internship, it just means that you have a passion for what you are doing and the freedom to make decisions; why would you want to settle for something less than what you know you can achieve?