I apologize in advance for being basic and using a Young Multicultural Professionals stock photo. Think of it like they’re all rooting for you.
Three weeks ago I went to Intern Pursuit, which is an internship fair that Quotes the PR club hosts twice a year. The organization invites all kinds of employers in the communication field, including local businesses, agencies, media, government, and nonprofits. The experience was both scary as hell and not as bad as I thought it would be.
At the end of the night, my feet were swollen and medics would probably not have been able to detect signs of life. But from that hour and a half I spent in there, I scored a really awesome internship in an area I want to pursue and talked to a lot of cool professionals in my industry that I would not otherwise have met. I hope these tips will help you do the same.
1. Print out a stack of resumes. I had 50 of them printed on white linen paper at The Spot, a print and design shop on campus, for a reasonable price. You should have at least 20 on hand. I also bought a padfolio (a portfolio/notepad/folder thing) from the UCF bookstore and business cards, which I paper-clipped to my resumes, but those are optional. You do you.
2. Know who you want to talk to. Have a general list of what employers you would like to approach. Learn about the work they’ve done, what clients they may have, and any news (Did they just undergo a merger? Any big events they recently hosted?). I found it helpful to create a Word doc with the companies’ names, your favorite work that they’ve done, specific questions, and why you are interested in them. I referred to these notes before I went to each table. Don’t ask “So what does your company do?” Please don’t be that guy.
3. Practice your elevator speech, so you know how to respond if someone says, “So tell me about yourself.” My formula goes: “Hi, I’m [name], I’m a [class standing] studying [major]. I work/intern at/am involved in [organization]. I’m interested in [position]. I found out about your company through [person/place/website], and I thought it was interesting because [reason].” This is a simple overview of who you are that will propel the conversation.
4. Be focused. Don’t screw around with your friends, and don’t text while in line for a booth.
5. Smile. You’re excited, so don’t forget to look like it!
6. Embrace the nerves. You’re talking to a person you really want to impress. It’s okay to be anxious. In fact, employers seem to expect it. They know how to guide the conversation. And sometimes it’ll veer off into friendly, unrelated chatter. Let it. The baseline is “pleasant,” not “life-changingly brilliant,” though that works too. Plus, the more they know about your personality, the better.
7. Ask for a business card and if you could connect on LinkedIn. Not only does this give you a way to actually contact them, it lets them know that you’re serious about the position and that you’d like to keep in touch with them. On LinkedIn, don’t neglect to write in the box how you know them! They met a lot of people today too, so help them out.
8. Take notes. After every encounter, I went to an empty table or trashcan along the wall and wrote down things to remember. It’s help to jot down the names of the people you talked to, what questions you asked, what you talked about, and any ideas you may have for the follow-up (like further questions or articles/videos relevant to your discussion that they might find interesting). Be observant and creative.
9. Write thank-you letters or emails. Send them within 24 hours, while the conversations are still fresh in both of your minds. Re-attach your resume along with any relevant writing samples, even if they didn’t ask for it (Thanks for the tip, Valerie!). It’s something extra that can make you stand out. Give generously and add value where you can.
10. If they haven’t responded, send one follow-up email a week later. Politely reintroduce yourself. Ask them about the status of your application and offer to share additional information or materials, if needed. Stay positive.
Bonus tip: Do a fun thing after the fair. Go to IHOP with your friends or watch Arrested Development. Breathe.
Have you been to a career/internship fair? Share your cool stories or tips in the comments below!
Let me know if you also think the white girl in the stock photo is Photoshopped in, because, I mean, look at those shadows! The contrast! The weird blur!