As the end of UCF’s spring semester quickly approaches, it’s easy to lose yourself in thoughts of summer vacation and relaxation in lieu of the agonizing hunt for a job or internship. If you’re someone like me who struggles with networking and putting yourself out there, it takes a lot of preparation before I can confidently connect with future employers. I’m lucky enough to have someone I can look to for guidance when it comes to internship or job fairs — and I seriously would not be where I am today without her — but not everyone is as fortunate as I am. So, I’ve compiled a few tips to keep in mind when venturing into internship or job fairs.
- You’re more skilled than you think
It’s hard to break the habit of comparing yourself to the people around you — both in everyday life and especially when you’re competing for work. But it’s important to realize, before you even step into an internship or job event, that you have what it takes to get that job. Don’t underestimate your skills and qualifications. Every odd job or random skill you’ve picked up is an asset and counts. And don’t go into a fair with the mindset that you won’t find success. Showing confidence — even if you’re acting and are about two seconds away from combusting — is a great way to catch an employer’s attention.
- Research employers that strike your interest
Prior to the day of the event, many internship and job fairs will share a list of employers that plan to attend. This is a great way to start doing some preliminary research on employers that catch your eye. Look at the work they’ve done and get a feel for how they operate and what their goals are. Not only is this a great way to find out which employers align most with your interests, but it’s great knowledge to have during your first conversation or even at a future interview.
- Plan an elevator pitch
Before you can snag that interview, you’ve gotta make a good first impression. An elevator pitch would be the first thing you say to an employer — around 30 seconds — that gives a concise description of who you are and what you can offer. It doesn’t need to be anything complicated and you don’t need to repeat anything they can already see on your resume. Something as simple as your name, where you go to school, your year and major, something you enjoy or find interesting about the company and a question to continue the conversation works just fine. You could just ask about a position you’re interested in or even a way to connect with them after the event is over. This is also a great chance to show them your personality and who you are beyond a piece of paper.
- Update your resume/business cards/portfolio
While this may seem like a given to some, I feel like it’s important to emphasize. You want to make sure anything you’ll be handing to an employer is as up to date as possible. Whether it’s adding experience on to your resume, fixing the design of your business card or adding new work into your portfolio, it’s a good habit to keep your things updated.
- Follow-up after the event
If there were any positions or companies that really stuck out to you, definitely send them a follow-up email in at least 24 hours. This shows that you’ve taken the initiative to connect with this company and are seriously interested. It’s typical to attach a cover letter to this email and many employers will tell you to do so while you’re speaking to them at the event. A good trick is to have a pre-written cover letter that you can tweak and personalize for each company. It’s also good to mention the name of the person you spoke with at the event and express the position you’re interested in.
It takes a lot of courage to get yourself out there and to start going to internship and job fairs. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to go to one without sweating bullets the entire time. But, rest assured that the people there want to see you succeed. They want dedicated workers just as much as you want to gain real experience. So, the next time an internship or job fair rolls around, consider taking that leap on to the next stepping stone of your career.