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Employer advice: Career fairs’ impact on my career path

Learn from a 2020 U alumna about attending career fairs as a student and lessons learned.

U Alumna 2020 Ellie Hanson answered questions from the Career & Professional Development Center about attending career fairs as a student. Hanson is a Biomedical Engineering graduate and is now a Manufacturing Engineer for Edwards Lifesciences.

What role did career fairs play in your career journey? 

Career fairs had a huge impact on my career path! I talked to a recruiter from Edwards Lifesciences and was lucky to get an interview. From there, I was able to land an internship with an amazing company, which opened the door to two more internships with them. Having multiple internships showed me I loved working in the medical device industry and gave me a wide variety of experiences before graduating. It also set me up with a full-time position my last year of college!

What’s one thing you learned from attending career fairs? 

The biggest thing I learned from attending career fairs is that it requires a lot of preparation and follow up work. I’ve learned having tailored resumes, dressing professionally, practicing your “elevator speech”, and following up with employers is super important. So many students go into the fair without revising their resume or knowledge of what the company does, and that can send off a bad impression. It’s way better to be over-prepared than underprepared!

What would you do differently if you were to attend a career fair as a student again? 

The first time I went to a career fair was my junior year; I didn’t even go my sophomore year when I worked at CPDC because I felt like I didn’t have enough experience to qualify for an internship. It really just intimidated me. If I could go back, I would go to the career fair as a freshman and sophomore to make myself more comfortable with the process. I could have practiced talking to employers without the pressure of needing an internship.

What’s the value of attending a career fair for someone with your major?

Internships are extremely valuable and almost expected in an Engineering discipline if you plan on going into the industry after graduation. A career fair provides a great opportunity to connect with employers and learn about different internship program or full-time positions. It also allows you to create a more personal connection with the company/recruiter, which can help a lot with the application and interview process.

What was the biggest challenge you faced during the career fairs and how did you handle it?

The most challenging part of career fairs for me was just talking to recruiters. As a more naturally introverted person, networking and large gatherings can be stressful. It can feel awkward sometimes and hard to know what to say. The biggest thing that helped me was mapping out 3-4 employers to talk to, preparing a few talking points and questions, and going with a friend. This made me feel more confident going in and made it a lot less overwhelming.

For more career-related posts, visit the Career & Professional Development Center Blog Peaks&Valleys.