Internship fairs present incredible opportunities from a variety of companies and organizations for students to take their knowledge and go forth into gaining real-world experience. Internships not only look great on resumés but are a crucial component to the building blocks of any career and a great way to build a professional network and get to know people and organizations from the industry you want to pursue.
Many of us here at Appleton were once the doe-eyed students, looking for our first step up on the career ladder. The journey from interns to employees has taught us some things we wish we knew before having to learn the hard way. As we search for our next star interns this semester, here are some inside internship tips and tricks we put together for students looking to leave a lasting first impression at internship fairs.
Before the Event
A resumé is your first impression, so make it count. It allows an employer to have a full insight into all the things they need to know about a candidate on a single piece of paper. This is why it is so important to work on your resumé and portfolio before an internship fair and to perfect it for the event. In the world of communication, we love to see creativity with functionality and the original, out of the ordinary resumés stand out the most. That being said, don’t be afraid to experiment and make your resumé have a lasting impression without losing the essentials.
Personalize Your Elevator Speech
On the day of the event, a prospective intern can expect to speak to at least 15–20 different employers. An employer, however, probably speaks to over 200 students. For this reason, the most successful students are those who have extremely personalized elevator speeches. An elevator speech is a short description of yourself lasting about 30–60 seconds explaining who you are and gets an employer interested in listening to you. An employer wants to know the skills and experiences that will contribute to their company but they also want to know you are more than just a prepared speech. Your personality, interests or hobbies should bleed into your elevator speech naturally, and if that doesn’t do the trick, you can always win them with a little bit of wit. This shows the employer that you know who you are and what you want to do.
Know Them Before They Know You
Researching the employers who will be at the event is a step many students skip. However, it makes a world’s difference in two ways. It is one of the most important internship tips. First, employers are more interested in talking to someone who has approached them knowingly and wants the internship because their goals and beliefs are in line with the company’s. Approaching an employer and not knowing who they are or what they do may make the student seem unprepared. Second, as a student who has pre-researched employers, it is so much easier to navigate through the fair to find organizations they definitely want to talk to, make an impression on or learn more about.
Day of Event
Dress for Success
As obvious as it sounds, it’s just as often that students fail to take this very important advice. On the day of the internship fair, make sure you to have your outfit planned and ready to go. Clothes should be clean and ironed and most importantly, professional. We recommend guys to wear a suit or at least a formal button-down, tucked in shirt with formal pants. For girls, to keep it professional, we suggest staying away from the low cut tops and club style heels. Again, use your outfit as an icebreaker with a small element that stands out and shows your personality like colorful socks under your suit for guys or an interesting necklace or bracelet for girls.
Early Bird Gets The Worm
A crucial internship tip is to make sure to show up early and completely prepared on the day of the event. Being prepared means having enough (at least 50) resumés. Give yourself enough time to feel grounded before the event starts and try to be one of the first students inside the doors to speak to employers. Remember, employers have to talk to hundreds of students and by the midpoint of the event there are queues of students lining up in front of the employers. By that time, it will be very difficult to stand out and make an impression. The earlier you are to interview, the more impactful your conversations will be.
While talking to employers at an internship fair, it is common to feel intimidated. Remember, most of these employers were once students living very similar lives to your own, seeking out internship advice just like you. It’s best to keep your interactions two-sided, instead of them just talking about their company, they also want to hear from you. Employers prefer students who tell them what they want to do during their internship or what career path they wish to pursue. If you’re interested in social media marketing, tell the employer why that interests you and what you’d bring to their company. Also, ask them questions to understand more about their companies or their positions. For instance, you can ask “How would you describe your company culture?” or “What qualities and skills do you look for in an intern candidate?” to keep the conversation going.
After the Event
The event is over, but the race is still on. The next step in the process is to get an interview with the employers you met with. An important internship tip to make the employers remember you is to remind them of your meeting by sending out follow up emails. Students should send out follow up emails within 24 to 48 hours of the event, thanking the employer for the opportunity to introduce yourself, expressing your interest in the internship and sending them a digital copy of your resumé and portfolio. Many experts recommend sending out those emails the night of the event for the employer to see first thing the next morning. In this case, slow and steady does not win the race.
Keep Your Social Media Clean
In today’s world of social media, especially in the communications industry, your digital impression is just as important as your in-person impression. Students should make sure there are no questionable pictures or posts that may defer interest from an employer if they come across the student’s profile. Stay away from inappropriate pictures, bashing current or past employers or just being a mean person in general. It’s easier to get along with people who are nice and positive, and most of the time it does reflect in their work.