Reminding your students to follow up after a career fair

March 15, 2012 at 8:00 am | Posted in career center | Leave a comment
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Coach Susan Sandberg

Susan Sandberg

After a successful career fair, students are often in a state of euphoria because they met representatives from companies that they consider future employers or internship sites. The companies have their resumes, and the students have their business cards or contact information.  Now all they have to do is wait for the email or phone call, offering them an interview, an internship, or even a job–or so they think.  As a career services professional, it’s your job to introduce them to the real world of follow up. Your office may be able to provide college note cards for students to use to write thank you notes.

To emphasize that the career fair is only the first step in an ongoing campaign to launch a career, you might suggest the following activities that will help them realize their future goals:

  • Correspondence:  Write a brief letter or note and send it to each person with whom you spoke. Consider sending your “Thank you for your time” note via snail mail since emails may get lost in junk mail or in the deluge of emails in a busy person’s inbox. Start off by thanking him/her for the information about the company, and then ask if you may come in for an informational interview to learn more about the industry. At this point, you aren’t asking for an internship or a job; you simply want to develop a professional relationship with the company of your choice. Future correspondence could include holiday cards, congratulatory notes on new product releases or company accomplishments, or news of your own awards or new additions to your resume.
  • Class assignment:  Demonstrate your active interest in the company by selecting a subject/product, history, or significant event as a topic for a class paper or project. The company may even provide a topic that interests them, such as how to expand its  market on college campuses.  Most companies feel an obligation to help students in educational pursuits, which means they’ll be willing to provide information for the project or to agree to talk to students on the proposed project.  Whether it’s a team effort or an individual one, you might ask a company representative to attend the final report presentation.  At the very least you could send the report to the company, ensuring that the recipient remembers who you are when you do call for an internship or job.
  • Networking:  When you’ve found a company where you want to work, start researching and building a network. Sign up for LinkedIn and create a profile that highlights the skills required by your target company. Also, post a question asking if anyone on LinkedIn knows an employee in your target company. Visit the campus career center to find out what the staff can tell you about the company. Check at the alumni office to find out if any alumni are employed at that company and could introduce you to the appropriate personnel or give you a recommendation. Ask your professors if they know anyone at the company. Many professors do consulting for outside firms and may be able to help you with contacts. Find out if the company sponsors any volunteer or community events in which you could offer your services as a way to network with employees.  Effective networking may take months to do, but it does pay off, literally.

Career Fairs sweep campuses

March 13, 2012 at 8:00 am | Posted in career center | Leave a comment
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Coach Susan Sandberg

Susan Sandberg

Like your colleagues at campuses around the country you probably have been busy getting your students ready for Career Fairs at your school. You’ve reviewed student resumes, researched the attending companies, signed up students, and held preparation sessions. Career Fairs offer excellent opportunities for both internships and jobs.

Here’s how some of your colleagues at other colleges are handling this busy event:

  • Gustavus Adolphus College:  Over 130 Gustavus students will gather at the Minneapolis Convention Center, where they will interface with potential employers at the annual Minnesota’s Private Colleges Job and Internship Fair. Gustavus students who registered for the fair assembled for an orientation event designed to improve their interview skills ahead of meeting with representatives from hiring companies. For over 30 years, Minnesota’s Private Colleges Job and Internship Fair has been connecting graduating seniors with entry-level employment opportunities, in addition to matching many juniors and sophomores with valuable summer internships.  Registrants have been receiving a myriad of advice from the Center for Servant Leadership (CSL) via email. Preparations for the fair included a meeting, where 22 Gustavus alumni were on hand to give advice and provide the opportunity for students to participate in a series of mock interviews.
  • North Illinois University (NIU):  More than 148 employers are scheduled to see student faces at the Internship and Full-time Job fairs at NIU. Regardless of class or major, students are welcome to attend the Internship Fair while seniors and alumni are invited to attend NIU’s Full-Time Job Fair. Admission is free for NIU students, $5 for NIU alumni and $10 for non-NIU candidates. “Students who use the NIU job and internship search system, Huskies Get Hired – utilizing Victor eRecruiting – are finding success in identifying and applying for internships and full-time jobs,” said Brandon Lagana, director of marketing and information at Career Services. “They are hearing from employers about interviews.” Students can enhance their Spring 2012 career fair experience by following up with a visit to Career Services.  Other upcoming spring career fairs include: Mid-America Educators’ Job Fair for teacher certification students and Retail Leadership Expo.
  • Utah State University (USU) More than 40 businesses from Utah and across the U.S. participated in the recent annual Summer Jobs Fair at USU, offering a variety of job openings for students who are looking for work this summer.  The fair gave students a chance to find jobs and internships in many fields such as retail, satellite television sales, summer camps, hotels and resorts, campus employment and LDS employment. “I like how most of the jobs offer internships,” said USU student Eric Kunzler. “I’m a business administration major, and a lot of jobs like Camp Hunt and Bear World offer internships, so that’s interesting for me.” “We are offering summer internships,” said Frank Asbell, the representative from Bear World at the fair. “We have people doing things like diet and food prep, health and safety checks, exhibit maintenance, guiding the tours, animal education.” Representatives from the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation and the Jackson Trading Company also attended.
  • University of Maryland:   More than 300 employers will be available during the upcoming three-day Spring Career & Internship Fair, including 212 employers recruiting for non-technical positions and 202 employers looking to fill technical positions. More than 100 employers are looking to hire for both types of positions. William Jones Jr., the Associate Director for External Relations at the University Career Center & The President’s Promise, wrote an excellent editorial for the campus newspaper that you might want to share with your own students. 
    • Here are excerpts from his insider suggestions:  
      • Collect as many business cards as you can and make a good first impression, so when it is time to apply for a position you can stand out by referencing that connection in your cover letter.
      • Do not ask the employer “what kind of positions do you have” or “what is your organization all about?” Research the organizations that are expected to attend the fair beforehand.
      • Yes, the recruiter may ask you to apply online. When you do apply online, use the knowledge you gained from speaking with the recruiter at the fair to highlight what’s really important from the organization’s point of view. And reference that conversation in your written materials.
      • Try to get on their interview schedule. Many employers are at the fair to encourage top candidates to get on their interview schedule as part of our On-Campus Interviewing Program.
      • Use the fair to put a face to your application. With the current economy, if your application materials are generic, the employer will move on to the next candidate. Put yourself in the position of the recruiters and ask yourself what would make you stand out in their mind.

Reminding students to follow up after a career fair

October 27, 2011 at 8:50 am | Posted in Intern Advice | Leave a comment
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Coach Susan Sandberg

Susan Sandberg

Many of your students have already attended several fall career fairs on campus or in the community, presented their resumes, met representatives, and targeted a company for an internship or a job. Remind your students to be proactive and follow up on such opportunities rather than wait to hear back from a particular company.

Tips to share with your students on how they can convert an initial career fair meeting into an internship or job offer:

  • Thank-you letters:  First, write a brief letter or note on quality stationery and send it to each person with whom you spoke at the desired company.  Emails can get lost as junk mail, so send your message in snail mail. Start off by thanking him/her for the information about the company and then ask if you can come in for an informational interview to learn more about the industry. At this point, you aren’t asking for an internship or a job; instead you simply want to develop a professional relationship with the company. It’s a good first step to getting your foot in the door.
  • Class paper/project:  Another proactive technique would involve writing a paper on that company or on the industry for a specific class assignment. You would describe your subject to the company representative and ask if you could visit the company to interview him/her for your paper. After you finish the paper, you could send it to the company representative (especially if you’ve gotten a top grade for it) with a thank-you note for his/her cooperation. Many class projects revolve around working with an actual company to resolve issues or develop business plans. You might suggest that your team works with the company that interests you, building a professional relationship.
  • Stay in touch:  After you have done an informational interview or have completed your class paper or project, stay in touch with your company contact by sending holiday cards or your updated resume for the company files. If you see any news items that reflect positively on the company, such as a new product launch, you could send a note, marking the event and demonstrating your interest. Or if you read an interesting article about the industry, you might forward it to your contact.
  • Networking. If you can enlist the support of a company employee, customer, or business associate, and receive permission to use their names as referrals in your application letter, you’re likely to get an interview as a courtesy to the person cited.   Check into the alumni office to find out if any alumni are employed at that company and could act as resources. And don’t forget to ask your professors, who may be consultants for your target company, to help you, too. Make sure that you’re signed up for LinkedIn and ask if anyone knows someone in your preferred company and could help you make contact. And mentioning your interest in a certain company on your Facebook page might also result in more contacts, leading to an internship or job interview.

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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