Just before spring break, I attended the Spring Head of the Lakes Job & Internship Fair, which was hosted at UWS. As you might know, my job in Career & Internship Services is employer relations, so I do a great deal of behind the scenes work for our job fairs. So, yes, I have been to job fairs before, but I was always working at them — never actually speaking to employers for my own personal reasons. Just a few weeks ago was my first experience doing this, so I figured I would share what I learned!
I want to preface by saying that I did not attend the fair with the goal of scoring a job or internship. Rather, I was looking to learn more about accounting internships and firms in the area. My goal was to learn, which I definitely achieved!
Here are my tips to help you PREPARE for attending your first job fair.
Identify your purpose.
Going to a job and internship fair to learn more and connect with people is different than going to secure a position for the summer or following year. Before you go to the fair, you should know what your purpose in attending is, as that will help you best prepare for it.
Research the fair to get a feel for the types of employers that will be in attendance.
Oftentimes, fairs are designed to attract certain students. For example, at UMD, we host E-Fest and STEM that are centered around science, technology, engineering, and mathematics students. Head of the Lakes (both fall and spring) are much more general — there is something for everyone!
Research specific employers you want to talk to.
Know a few things about each employer you might speak with, such as their industry, their location, and the general nature of their work. You do not need to know everything — that is what questions are for! I made a Google document with my notes compiled about the companies I was interested in speaking with. I had bullet points with very basic information about each company and then I also included a question or two I wanted to ask each specific employer. It doesn’t have to be super detailed.
Know what you are going to say when approaching employers.
Some people call this an elevator speech, but I find that term rather intimidating. Just think of it as an introduction of yourself. You want to show the employer who you are in a really short amount of time, so it is important to prepare for this. In my case, I was just looking to learn more about companies and their internship programs for accounting majors, so my introduction went something like this:
“Hi! My name is Kendra and I am a sophomore at UMD. I recently changed my major to accounting and am looking to learn more about potential accounting internships for the future. I noticed _(company)_ has _(title of the program)__ internship, could you tell me a little bit more about that?”
It is important to practice what you are going to say when approaching employers, but it is also critical that you not sound scripted. Try not to put so much pressure on this — just be yourself!
Update your resume.
You will want to bring copies of your resume to the fair to give to employers even if you are not actively seeking a position, so updating it is a great idea. I had one of the Peer Educators in our office help me update mine to best suit the type of employers I would be speaking with at the fair.
This does not mean you need to be uncomfortable or go on a shopping spree. Try to find something that you feel confident and comfortable in, as this will help you feel your best on the day of the fair. If you are in need of professional attire, check out Champ’s Closet at 245 Kirby Plaza.
Be sure you have everything you need when you are heading to a job fair. I recommend getting a padfolio to use at the fair. This will hold your resumes, a pen, and your notes about the companies, as well as serve as a place for you to write notes about the companies you speak with. I would also be sure to bring your UCard, as they are typically needed for registration.
Photo Source: UMD Career & Internship Services