What Employers Want You to Know at the Job Fair

By: McKenzie

Editor’s Note: McKenzie recently attended a C&IS student employee training featuring a panel of employers who regularly recruit UMD students. Here is what she learned.

Navigating job fair season can be a nerve-wracking and stressful time. Even seasoned pros get the jitters about all the career-related possibilities a job fair has in store. However, what if there was a way to ease the nerves? Turns out you are in luck because there is, in fact, a way to take on this task.

What employers want you to know at the job fair

Do Your Research
Employers unanimously agree knowing a thing or two about the company is completely awesome. It shows initiative and genuine interest in the company. When recruiters know you have an interest in the company, the conversation becomes more worthwhile and you can get better insight because of the questions you ask.

Ask Questions
If you have done your research then this one is a no-brainer. Trust me, recruiters have been giving the same spiel about their company all day so changing it up a little bit can go a long way. Not only does it help you learn more detailed information about the company, it also allows employers to gauge opportunities which may best fit you.

Recruiters Can’t Always Take Your Resume
This is a big one! I have heard it from recruiters myself. They may not be able to take your resume and this can be really confusing for students. Some recruiters can work with your resume to help you find matching jobs within the company, but even if they take your resume it does not guarantee you a position. Most companies have an online system they use for applications now so it is important to make sure you communicate with recruiters to learn the best ways to apply for opportunities in their company.

Fill Out the Entire Application
Although you may not apply for jobs online at the job fair, it is still important to remember to fill out their application completely. Many applicants do not fill out an online application to its full extent or put information such as, “see resume” and this is a really great way to end up at the bottom of the list of applicants. Be sure to fully answer questions on applications, even if it is the millionth job you have applied for today. Companies will not ask questions if they are not interested in the answer.

Dress For the Job You Want
It’s the age-old saying, “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have,” and it still tends to ring true. If you are attending the job fair to work in a business where you are expected to dress business casual daily then it would be in your best interest to dress for the job. It never hurts to set a good first impression.

Job hunting can feel scary, but it’s not. If you come to the job fair prepared with a plan then you are in for some smooth sailing. Whether it is your first time at fair or your last time, it is better to be there than not. You have already shown your interest by being present so get on it and get out there.

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First Time Experience at the Job Fair

By: Kimberly

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Time is ticking and every time the hand on my watch moved it seemed more surreal that in just a few minutes I would be at the job fair. In my right hand, I had a folder with twenty resumes I prepared to distribute to as many recruiters as possible and in my left hand, I held tightly onto hope. Hope for a variety of reasons; hopefully, I am successful today, hopefully, I land an internship, hopefully, I am different from the hundreds of other students and hope because I need it.

As I entered the building and quickly got myself signed-in, I made my name badge and wore it trying to contain the cold chills running through my hands. I had thousands of thoughts running through my mind such as, “What if I’m not as good as anyone else here?”, “What if I forget my elevator speech?”, “Don’t make a fool out of yourself!”, and it continued. Despite these thoughts, I managed to remind myself that like any other obstacles I had faced in life, I will conquer.

Immediately you could hear tons of voices from conversations between students and recruiters or students socializing among themselves. I quickly took a second to negotiate a deal with myself; I promised to stop stalling time after a quick tour of the entire job fair. During this tour, most of the of the recruiters I walked past were waving to students and welcoming them with a “hello,” and some even tried to engage in a conversation with you to attract you towards their booth. Students were offering their resumes and portraying emotions of excitement, eagerness, and confidence. Towards the end of my tour, I realized many of these recruiters weren’t so scary after all and it was time to take initiative. I also recalled a great tip I received to help burn off my nerves, speak with an organization that I wasn’t interested in yet, I wouldn’t be nearly as disappointed if I failed miserably.

Overall, after several conversations, I learned that many recruiters were eager to speak with students and were most likely going to be alumni from yours or another familiar university/college. They were immensely interested in hearing about what I was currently involved in, where my passion was, and the reasons why I pursue what I do. In addition to recruiters sharing with me about their position and what they do for the organization, they were sharing great pieces of advice. For example, when to look out for internships within my area, who I could reach out to specifically, and what they had in store for students with my major.

Kimberly & Crew UMJF 17
Kimberly (2nd from left) and fellow UMD students at the University of Minnesota Job & Internship Fair.

After meeting with every organization on my list I ended my day at the fair by heading to the student lounge area for a brief evaluation of everything I accomplished. I reflected on each of the conversations I had while actively jotting down notes. Although it was hard to believe, I was quite surprised at how fast the day went by and at the number of recruiters I spoke with. It was a great feeling knowing I made some awesome connections with a few recruiters. I couldn’t wait to add them on LinkedIn or send them a follow-up email, sometime on Monday.

Now, let me remind you that I attended workshops to develop a good elevator speech/pitch, spent days working on improving my resume by getting it reviewed by others, and researched the organizations’ backgrounds prior to the job fair day. All this effort I put in prior to the fair prepared me with the skills and knowledge to engage in these conversations. If I had not spent that amount of effort and time into preparing I know my first-time experience at the fair would have been disappointing. I strongly recommend to anyone who is attending a job fair whether it’s your first time or not – you need to put in effort preparing yourself before going. Like the saying, “You only get out what you put in.”, although cliché it is very true. The second piece of advice I would offer is, speak with passion. Besides telling them what is already on your resume, give them something that showcases the “why” behind everything on your resume. Lastly, enjoy your time at the fair, it is a great way to also network with other students.

Of Possible Interest: 

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What’s a Co-Op & How Do I Get One?

By: Kirsi

Co-Op: Short for Cooperative Opportunity. An internship is a one semester arrangement to work with an organization. A Co-Op is a multi-semester arrangement to work at an organization often leading to full-time employment upon successful completion. Both opportunities allow students to complete meaningful work, learn more skills related to their major and help push the organization forward.

Venn Diagram of internship and co-op

Diagram of the similarities and differences of an internship and Co-Op.

What Is A Co-Op?

No matter if you get an internship or a Co-Op you will know that you are doing meaningful work that pushes the organization’s efforts forward while expanding your knowledge in your major. The biggest way a Co-Op, differs from an internship is the agreement you make with the organization to work several semesters and the huge commitment the organization is making for you. Co-Ops are available for a number of majors.

I Co-Op with NASA’s Johnson Space Center so I am a little biased when it comes to this Co-Op topic. At NASA Johnson, they expect students to complete three work tours which, at the minimum, include one long semester and two summers before your last year of college. You can stack on as many work tours as you and your organization are comfortable with – causing your four-year graduation plan to be extended. A Co-Op is typically an organization’s pipeline for hiring early career candidates. Your Co-Op experience is like a multi-semester interview where the organization gets to know you and you get to know the organization. Since you are expected to have more than one work tour your projects may be related, leading to a long-term project. Often, Co-Ops are treated like full-timers with health, life, travel, sick leave, annual leave and retirement benefits… well, your hourly pay will be lower than full-timers because you haven’t graduated yet.

screenshot of how a co-op looks on a transcript

Screen shot of a Co-Op experience on a UMD transcript.

I’m going to expand more on the “extending graduation” aspect because that sounds kinda spooky to us folks who are avoiding debt and eager to get out of school. Your engineering department (or whatever department) likely offers a credit for Co-Ops if you work during a fall or spring semester. This holds your place here at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD), you can maintain full-time student status (12 credits) thus maintaining financial aid and letting you check that box on the FAFSA. It shows up on your transcript as one credit, like the image above, but shows up at 12 credits for all the Financial Aid Staff. Other colleges may handle your absence due to the Co-Op differently than UMD. Personally, I make money at NASA and spend it on UMD the next semester which prevents me from gaining debt. I flip flop between semesters at UMD and NASA. For example, I was in Texas Fall 2015, at UMD in Spring 2016, in Texas this Summer 2016, and now at UMD.

Kirsi at her co-op at NASA Johnson Space Center

Working on a fluid system for a Co-Op project at NASA Johnson.

How Do I Get One?

So a Co-Op gig sounds pretty sweet huh? Well, excellent ways to score a Co-Op include attending UMD-hosted job and internship fairs and other career fairs hosted by the University of Minnesota. Before the fair do your research on GoldPASS so you know who is going to be there and who to ask about Co-Op opportunities. Some companies only hire upperclassmen Co-Ops but I have seen exceptions in the past for folks with outstanding experience in high school or early college, so I think it is still worth asking and sharing your resume. When you talk with an employer offering Co-Ops at a job fair it would be wise to ask:

  • How does your Co-Op program differ from your internship program?
  • What is the typical journey of a Co-Op?
  • What projects to Co-Ops work on?
  • How can I apply for your Co-Op program, any tips?”

If you want to pursue a company not attending a U of MN system fair do research on LinkedIn, GoldPASS or that perspective company’s website. On the LinkedIn networking site if you simply search “Co-Op,” up will pop pages and pages of Co-Ops! Government Co-Ops have a very specific method of applying on USA Jobs and if you need help with that I have written previous blog posts specifically on that topic. If you want to pursue a company not attending a U of MN system fair and you want to connect with them in person tech conferences and hackathons. Your department may even fund you if you ask nicely.

Get out and get yourself a Co-Op!

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Photo & graphic by Kirsi.

It’s Never Too Early to Intern

By: Kirsi


Well… according to child labor laws the absolute minimum age of an employee is 14 however I’m talking late high school/early college here. It is true, you can have a meaningful relevant internship before completing your major’s core classes! While it may seem intimidating to get a taste of industry I’m here to spill some early career secrets.

Intern Early

Photo source: Unsplash | NASA

Need a Job for Experience – Need Experience for a Job Paradox

Demonstrating you have experience without a previous internship is a common early career hurdle. However, employers often hire interns knowing they don’t have ample experience and train them on the job. Before completing my core classes in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering I participated in an internship at Rockwell Automation. Rockwell Automation creates computer controllers used in factories, water treatment plants, and even roller coasters at amusement parks. Knowing that I was not familiar with their controllers they signed me up for training my first week where I learned how to code a basic assembly line program. After completing the training I was entrusted to test the controllers for anomalies. The summer before my freshman year of college I interned at NASA’s Glenn Research center designing a circuit board for a deep space habitat. Contrary to common belief I had never designed a circuit board before! My mentor shared training videos with me and I learned how to draw circuits using computer software. Basically it is more important to have passion related to the work, and patience to learn something new.


Controller we programmed during training, motion sensor and buttons.

In a depressingly titled BBC article, “This is the reason new graduates can’t get hired”, Anthony Carnevale, director from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, shared his thoughts. Carnevale explained, “Employers say students may have textbook knowledge but don’t have the ability to take that knowledge to think critically, innovate, solve complex problems and work well in a team.” Fortunately UMD offers opportunities for students to grow in book smarts and applied smarts. In addition to your studies join a club that challenges you to use the skills gained in your major. Students in ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) club attend hackathonsKirby Program Board gives students opportunity to develop leadership skills and organize campus wide events, and a number of sororities and fraternities conduct community outreach and volunteer. Outlets external to UMD where you can gain experience include job shadowing a local career person you look up to, attending a conference related to your major, or volunteering at a hospital, nursing home or site related to your major. You will see a trend that employers hire students for internships if they expand their experience into extra-curriculars.

What are Employers Actually Looking For?

Instead of reading minds of perspective employers, Forbes interviewed them in “What Employers Are Looking For When Hiring Recent College Grads”. Microsoft representative Anthony Rotoli shared that they look for candidates that are “willing to take risks”, “offer a fresh perspective ” and are “self-motivated and excited about technology”. Stacey Klein head of human resources at J. Walter Thompson explained they want students who are “innovative problem solvers” and “have awareness to other people and cultures”.


Microsoft interns (Photo by Microsoft)

This past fall I attended a tech conference called Grace Hopper, a celebration of women in computing. Despite the focus on women I learned career advice applicable to anyone at any level of their career. During a luncheon I spoke with Steven Mollenkopf, CEO of Qualcomm and asked him what are characteristics that got him to the position of CEO. Mollenkopf shared that communication is key. Speak confidently, convince others of your idea and be a good public speaker. While you are not applying to be a CEO of a company, insight on what it takes to be a CEO is still applicable for applying to an internship and will certainly give you an upper hand.

Update your experience descriptions on your resume to highlight skills in communication, problem solving, and other skills employers look for. Fuse these into your experience descriptions rather than listing them as skills alone.


Steven Mollenkopf talking with us about what it takes to be a CEO (photo by NCWIT (National Center for Women & Information Technology))

Highlighting Your Eligibility 

Even with extra-curriculars, volunteering, and class projects added to your resume, you may still think it does not fully communicate your eligibility. Sending a cover letter allows you to craft your passion for the internship position into a narrative form. Tell a story about why you are interested in the internship, what have you done to grow in that profession already, and what you can offer them. Employees don’t often request a cover letter but when they receive a well written cover letter that is what can tip the scale from “consider” to “hire”. Our Career Handbook explains how to write a strong cover letter specific to a internship position. Make an appointment with a career counselor to look over your cover letter before you submit it to your potential employer.

No previous internship? Haven’t finished your core classes? No problem! Equipped with extra-curriculars and a stellar cover letter you are on the path to internship victory!

Of Possible Interest: 

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Ready! (Or Not?) Internships Here I Come!

By: Cassie

Did you read my last post? If you did great! If you didn’t, don’t worry. I get it, you’re busy and I’ll try to not be too hurt. If you still don’t want to go read it, I’ll give you a brief synopsis of what it said. I talked about the incredible pressure we as college students feel to get internships. I also talked about the steps you can take to get yourself on the right track towards what the best internship strategy is for you. Well today, I am back to tell you I started on my track and it was the most beneficial thing I could have done for myself, and I now I’ll tell you why.

Internship Ready or Not

I had no idea what I wanted to do. I also knew that I was running out of time to get an internship as summer is fast approaching and I knew everyone else has probably been out there looking for internships for at least a month or more by this point. I had my mom emailing me like 10 internship listings a day in fields I wasn’t even interested in. Some people may like finance (and kudos to them) but honestly the thought of doing a financial internship all summer made me cringe. Having a major in Health Care Management, my field is so broad that I didn’t even know what area I wanted to go into for my internship. I could do HR, PR, finance, accounting, medical records, shadowing, and honestly, so much more. Finally, I just took the time and made an appointment with a counselor in C&IS and it was the most helpful thing I could have done.

Now, I know you probably might be thinking “well she works for C&IS so she probably is just trying to promote them” and I want you to know that is not the case. Yes, I LOVE my office and I love the things they can do to help students, but this is not just a ploy to get you to stop by and visit. I sat down with a counselor and talked about all the things that I was worried about in an internship. Then she did something super important and asked me what my biggest concern was. After a minute I realized that it was that I was stressing myself out about things that I didn’t quite need to worry about yet. I am only a sophomore and I haven’t started my upper division classes yet, which most employers will look at when you apply for an internship. I also can build my work experience this summer by volunteering or finding a less stressful hospital position like working in a gift shop or shadowing for a day. You can never have too many things to put on a resume, and no one has ever thought that gaining experience in your field of interest is a bad thing. By not getting an internship this summer I have time to think about what I really want to gain from an internship for next year. All in all I learned there are so many other things I can do before I take the huge leap into the internship world.

I know this post is a lot about me, but overall I hope you took something from my experience. It is not always the time for an internship. It is OKAY to not be ready and it is OKAY to wait until you are. That doesn’t mean that you should give up on internships entirely. Look for other ways to gain experience or take the time to learn what YOU really want. So don’t listen to your parents, or your friends who have internships. You need to listen to yourself and know what is best for you right here and right now. If you don’t know what is best for you, that’s okay too! I didn’t know until I sat down and talked about it, so maybe that’s what you need to do too! There are so many people who are willing to help you and you just need to take that first step!

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Photo Source: Unsplash | Negative Space

Dating at the Job Fair: Wooing Employers

By: David

With Valentine’s day approaching and job fair season ongoing, today’s post will be juxtaposing the two notions dating and job fair recruiting. Sadly, I will not be giving tips and advice for finding your soulmate at the job fair. After attending several job fairs, I have come to see many similarities between the two and figured it would be fun to highlight a few similarities and differences for this hectic time of job recruiting season.


Similar to Facebook stalking, it is important to research your intended company before the initial meet. (Disclaimer: I do not condone any FB stalking behavior). When finding a romantic partner, the new method in today’s day and age is the art of Facebook stalking which allows people to see and maybe know more about that individual (depending on privacy settings of course). Similar to dating, it is always important to “stalk” your intended company to further find more information the company might have because in the end you always want to be prepared to be able to talk about certain things and ask and answer any questions the other party might have for you. The only catch is that it is okay for you to go above and beyond with questions for job fair recruiters but not potential partners. For instance, it is okay for you to talk about specific aspects and details about the company and work ethic. On the flipside, please refrain yourself from talking about your potential partner’s cousin who is newly engaged.  


One thing I can not stress enough for both job fairs and dating is to dress to impress! Ideally, it would be fantastic if people did not judge us and could accept us for our great personalities and skill sets, but that’s not always the case. The idea here is not always to physically attract the opposing party (though it can be), but rather it just shows the other party that you are willing to invest your time and effort for them specifically. For job fairs, one absolute criteria is professional dress attire. This is important because it establishes a sense of credibility by expressing your professional side by presenting yourself in a well-poised manner. In terms of dating, it’s nice to show that you invested time and effort to present yourself for the other party in a fashionable manner. Overall, whether it be for professional or personal reasons, it never hurts to dazzle the opposing party by dressing up. For ideas of what to where you can check out our Pinterest boards for women and men.


Whether it be the dating scene or the professional field, one of the most common thing that happens to me is preparing myself to talk to the other party with confidence, but ending up not doing so. My outfit looks sharp, I feel fabulous, and I have the entire conversation scripted in my head. When it comes down to the wire, I instantly freeze, lose all my confidence, and run away to reevaluate my life and my approach. Trust me, it happens all the time! Over the years, I have learned that the biggest obstacle to overcome is the icebreaker. Being creative, personable, and NOT awkward is a difficult task to do for most of us, but is perfected through time. Whether it be the elevator speech for job fairs or a pickup line for a romantic interest, the icebreaker approach is one skill that can definitely be mastered.

All in all, the juxtaposition between dating and job fairs is quite similar when comparing the two. Despite the experience level in either field, it is always a great learning experience to get out there and actually experience the process of job recruiting and dating. Whether it be for professional purposes or romantic reasons, there are key ideas that definitely overlap between the two notions that can be applicable even in other areas as well. Hope you all enjoyed today’s post and look forward to a part II in the far future! Good luck with job fair season and dating (if you are looking for someone) and hopefully you can apply skills from one field to another to increase your odds in your desired goal. Happy trails and as always, stay gold!  

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Under Pressure: Internship Edition

By: Cassie

When you hear the word internship what is the first thing that you do? Do you think about all the positive things that can happen from getting one and gaining experience? Do you get excited about going through the application and hiring process? Well, for me, and I’m sure for a lot of you out there, that is not what you are thinking about at all. Personally, when I think about internships I start to break out in a cold sweat and the initial panic begins. The pressure to get an internship is something that is very prevalent and it’s something that does not get talked about enough. Searching for internships is time consuming, stressful, and confusing, and I’m here today to tell you that if you’re stressed out about your internship search, you are not alone.

Under Pressure Internship

One of the things that can be the most stressful about finding an internship is the constant feeling of someone breathing down your neck. Some majors have an internship built into their curriculum so you have to obtain one to graduate. So, that means at some point you are going to have to get one, no questions asked. Then your professors tell you how beneficial they are, they will stand in front of the class and tell you stories from their own internship experience. Let’s top that off with constant emails from people higher up about internship opportunities that are opening up and how you should compete with a large pool of fellow students when you apply. Then to make it extra special you have your mom and dad sending you email links to internship applications and telling you, you need to get it together. Now, some of that might not be true for you, but even if you are experiencing some of these you are sitting in the pressure cooker that is the search for internships. As college students we have a lot of things going on. We have our classes, clubs, jobs, social lives, and, when we have the time, we like to sleep. So, it is honestly hard to find the time to look through the “hidden job market” to find an internship we qualify for or that relates to our major or interests. Then, when you have people consistently telling you how important they are, you feel like you HAVE to start searching for them and add another thing on your already full plate. It’s exhausting.

Now, let’s talk about why the internship process is so time consuming. The first part is searching for the internship, which is not as easy as you would ever think it would be. You have to make professional and personal connections because by knowing more people there is a larger chance you will know somebody who can help you find a position somewhere. Don’t have any connections or don’t have any connections who can help? Go to the job fairs and find companies you are interested in. Still don’t have connections? Then you have to scour the Internet and hope that you find something that interests you. If you don’t know exactly what you want out of an internship it can be SO hard to know what you’re looking for. If you have a major that is not specific or is hard to find an internship for, then it is so hard to know what you want out of your internship experience. Say you do find an internship that really interests you, you then have to tune up your resume and cover letter. Thankfully, we have a lot of people at C&IS who can help you through this process, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not time consuming. Next you submit your application and you have to wait and stress about whether you are going to be given an interview or not. Then you have to prepare for said interview, which C&IS can also help you with. You have to do a lot on your own, but there are people to help you as well. And let me tell you, they LOVE to help you. It’s what they’re here for!

I am not trying to scare you about internships, they are very rewarding and insightful experiences that everyone really should have. I just wanted to take the time to tell you that if you are scared, or if you feel pressure, or you have a lot of questions, you aren’t alone! We, as college students, are all going through a similar experience and we should be able to openly talk about our fears and stressors. Internships are a huge deal and there are so many people who want to help you through this process, you just have to be proactive in your experience to get the most out of it. I hope now the next time you talk about internships you don’t break out in a cold sweat, or if you do, that’s okay. Just remember that there is help and that you can do this!

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Photo source: Unsplash|Skyler Smith