Reminding students that Career Fairs are about the Employer, not the Student

October 4, 2011 at 8:10 am | Posted in Finding internships | 1 Comment
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Coach Susan Sandberg

Susan Sandberg

It’s Career Fair time again. More than 130 employers will attend the University of Iowa’s Fall Job and Internship Fair, hosting local, national and international organizations such as IBM, Eli Lilly & Co., Go Daddy, Pearson, Coyote Logistics, John Deere, Von Maur, PepsiCo, and more. The University of Wisconsin Career Conference highlights the career focus of UW-Stout’s academic programs and is hosted by Career Services. About 2,000-3,000 students attend, looking for internships, Cooperative Education opportunities, and jobs.

It’s also time to remind your students how to make a good impression at a first face-to-face meeting:

  • Shifting dynamics:  In the past two years, the role of the intern has shifted dramatically. The employer mindset has gone from viewing the internship as a form of corporate community service to a method for accessing free or low-paid labor as well as future employees. In a tough economy employers are trying to make their dollars go further and their people produce more. Instead of approaching internships as an opportunity to learn about a profession or industry, students will need to focus on pursuing an internship that helps them contribute their skills in a way that generates value and substance for employers. The student who is committed to helping them get more for their money and do more with less is the one who gets the offer.
  • Coaching:  What should students say when they’re asked by a prospective internship supervisor, “Why do you want this internship?” Caution your students not to talk about how this is a great opportunity for them to learn about the industry and profession. What’s important to the employer is their ability to take initiative and produce quality work as a member of the team. The above question is the perfect opening for the student to talk about the skills that would bring value to the company. For example, if the company wants a marketing intern, the student could discuss his/her experience on a class marketing project or previous summer job.
  • Preparation:  Remind your students to take resumes and samples of work with them to the Career Fair. They might even take resumes that are customized for specific companies or for specific fields. Thanks to Google, it’s easy to access company Web sites. Students should be knowledgeable on a company’s mission as well as career tracks. In many cases, students might want to be proactive if they find the company that interests them and ask if they could come for an interview. If there aren’t any openings, a student could ask for an informational interview, which is another way to demonstrate a sincere interest.

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