Jan. 7, 2014 — day before UCLA’s Internship & Fellowship Night
To my parents [on the phone]:
“Tomorrow is UCLA’s Internship & Fellowship night — I’m so nervous! What am I going to talk to the employers about? I’m not familiar with most of the companies or what types of internships and jobs they offer, so what in the world am I going to talk to them about?!”
To my supervisor at the Career Center:
“It’s my first time going to a career fair tomorrow night, and to be honest, I’m so nervous! What should I to talk to the employers about? What am I supposed to wear? What is the proper way to approach them?”
To my brother [on the phone]:
“Is it normal to be nervous about career fairs? Honestly, I’m starting to have second thoughts about going. What if the employers are not impressed with me? What if my resume is not good enough? I just can’t wait until it’s over!”
To everyone else who listened to me rant about my nervousness:
“I’m totally going to mess up my 30 second pitch… should I start by introducing myself, my year in school, and my major? Or should I give my resume first? Should I let them do most of the talking? Or should I talk about myself and my interests?”
You might wonder why I would start my blog post with a number of conversations with my family, supervisor, and friends. It’s for two reasons, really. First of all, most students are not aware of the purpose of career fairs, as well as what exactly they entail. Second, and more importantly, most students are terribly nervous about participating in career fairs — so nervous that they decide to take the easy road and just not attend.
There is an easy fix to the first reason — you can always learn more about the purpose of career fairs online or from the wonderful and knowledgeable people at the UCLA Career Center. In regards to the second reason, however, what can you do to reduce the fear of attending an event that presents the opportunity to introduce yourself to employers from TOP companies?
Hmm… now that’s a tough question to answer.
Let’s try looking at this statement in a more positive perspective —
You (yes, YOU) are given the (rare and incredibly awesome) opportunity to introduce yourself (along with your interests, accomplishments, and career aspirations) to employers and recruiters from TOP companies (who are particularly in search of hiring UCLA students for internships, as well as possible full-time jobs.)
I know what you’re thinking —
“Well, now that you put it that way, where can I sign up?!”
Am I right? So, what exactly am I trying to convey through this blog post? As a Peer Advisor at the UCLA Career Center, I have become familiar with the various events, such as career fairs, that the Career Center organizes. Furthermore, I have come to realize just how advantageous and rewarding these services are for undergraduates! *Sigh* If only more students knew about them…
But that’s my job as a Peer Advisor — to familiarize UCLA students to our free resources as well as encourage and inspire them to attend anywhere from small-scale events, such as workshops, to large-scale events, such as the career fairs!
Now, before I get into my personal experience at career fairs, let’s start from the beginning. My name is Cynthia and I am currently a junior, studying Psychology. Just recently, I gained interest in the field of Human Resources and Industrial Organizational Psychology. For this reason, I knew that finding an internship in this field would give me hands-on experience in a potential career path. So, of course, my next step was to search for internships for the summer of 2014. And that’s exactly what I did. I began to look through BruinView and other job search sites, only to find one or two possible internships that were focused around Human Resources. I realized then that there were two upcoming events, “UCLA’s Internship & Fellowship Night” and “Bruin Career Connections Fair,” where I would be given the opportunity to actually network with employers from top companies, such as The Walt Disney Company and Twentieth Century Fox. I figured this would be my grand opportunity to learn more about a myriad of summer internships.
With the tremendous guidance I received from the career counselors at the UCLA Career Center, I was able to overcome the stress and anxiety that I felt prior to the event. The best advice was to always be prepared. What exactly does that mean in regards to career fairs? Well, here are a couple of examples:
- Prepare your professional/business attire the night before (something you would wear for an interview)
- Print 5-10 copies of your resume to hand out to employers (UCLA Career Center offers resume critiques; stop by to get one!)
- Rehearse a 30-second pitch (“Hello, my name is Cynthia, I am a third-year student studying Psychology… I’ve recently been interested in the field of Human Resources….”)
- Research more about the different companies that are visiting — this might be a way to impress the employers 😉
So what about my personal experience with career fairs? Here’s what happened —
When I first walked into the Career Center for the Internship & Fellowship Night, all I could think about was how awkward and uncomfortable I was going to feel when I talked to the employers. There were a couple of companies that I was interested in, but I wasn’t sure how to approach the employers. At around 6:30 pm, I walked toward the first table for Oakwood Worldwide; the table consisted of fliers, pens, and other giveaways. Two women with big, bright smiles were standing before me waiting for my introduction. And so I began. My smile grew big and suddenly I was a professional woman. Soon enough, I learned more about the company and the various summer internships they offered (they even had one in Human Resources!). Who would’ve thought?! At that point, I was already so excited. After that, I handed my resume to them (which they, more than gladly, took) and received their business cards in order to stay in contact. Finally, I smiled, thanked them, shook their hands, and moved on to the next table.
Wow! All it took was a short conversation with the employer for her to immediately consider me for a summer internship? HOW COOL IS THAT?!
That night, I handed my resume to around 5 employers and collected about 7 business cards. The following day, I emailed a thank you note to the each of them in an effort to show my appreciation for their visit, time, and consideration. You can definitely say it was a successful night for me — I felt so lucky to be a part of the minority of students who actually KNOW about career fairs and decide to participate in them. I truly would not be able to emphasize just HOW useful and advantageous that night was for me!
Of course, after attending the Internship & Fellowship Night, it was relatively easy for me to also attend the Bruin Career Connections Fair. In fact, it was actually a lot of fun! I felt comfortable and more energized than ever. One of the coolest things I learned at the Bruin Career Connections fair was that successful interns may be offered full-time jobs once they graduate. Ok… C’mon, HOW COOL IS THAT?!
Now you might ask — well, Cynthia, how did you get rid of that fear and nervousness that you were talking about in the beginning?
To be honest, apart from preparing ahead of time, the only way I overcame my fear was by actually PARTICIPATING in the event. Once I was physically there (with my high heels and whatnot), the fear disappeared within… minutes, perhaps even seconds!
With all of that being said, please take the time to learn more about our services; I really cannot emphasize the benefits it will provide you with in the long run!
Look for upcoming career fairs, events, and workshops on our Facebook page and the UCLA Career Center website [links below].