Each fall, universities host career fairs where prospective employers engage with hopeful interns and job seekers. Companies large and small participate in these events. Even if you will not graduate for two or three more years, a career fair is a great opportunity to snag a summer internship. Most companies that offer summer internships begin filling those positions in the fall, so don’t wait until the spring. Be ready now. Start with the basics of resume building and practice interviews, then go the extra mile to leave a terrific impression with your ideal employers at the career fair.
Keep your resume updated
Every semester you should review your resume to have it ready to go when a prospective employer requests a copy. It’s perfectly fine and even encouraged for first and second-year students to have their resume in shape. Know the industry norms for how to format your resume. Resumes targeted for arts and humanities internships will contain different content than a resume tailored for a STEM career. Reach out to your campus career center for guidance. Your university may offer resume workshops and reviews. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your resume is your most valuable marketing asset.
Remember that each interaction you have with a potential employer could be described as an interview. Employers may want to schedule a meeting with you as soon as they see your awesome resume at the career fair. So familiarize yourself with the STAR technique: elaborate on a Situation or Task with a subsequent Action that you took and the Result of that action. Indeed.com offers a set of STAR technique practice questions here. Find a friend who will help you practice.
Research and apply to companies
Most career fairs will have an associated website that lists companies that will be attending. For the companies that interest you the most, go to their website to see if they have any open positions. Consider applying to the company PRIOR to the career fair date so that your name and information is in their hiring database. Believe it or not, some employers will not even schedule an interview with you at a career fair unless you have completed an application. Again, reach out to your campus career center for guidance.
Plan your outfit
Have a plan to wear professional attire that fits with the climate. For example, don’t wear a heavy sweater to a career fair in Arizona in September. If your career fair spans multiple days, you should plan to have a different professional outfit for each day. Even if you only plan to attend a single day, a company may schedule an interview for the following day.
Have thank you notes ready
If you engage with a company at a career fair, send an email thank you note to the company either the same day or the following day. Be sure to ask for an email contact when you are talking with the company recruiter. If you do not have a company email address, check to see if there is a messaging component on the career fair website that will facilitate sending a thank you note to the recruiter.
Wash, rinse, repeat
In the days following the career fair, take a moment to reflect on the moments that went well and what things you want to tweak. As you contemplate these improvements, you will find that you are already preparing for your next career move.