Career fairs great way to network, find internships


With the school year officially back in full swing, career fairs are beginning to appear throughout campus. For those planning to attend a career fair for the first time, it is important to make the most out of your experience.

“Career fairs are important to attend because it allows students to network with companies,” said Lauren Stites, senior assistant director for Engineering Career Services. “It allows students to connect with an employer in person, and lets them become aware of what the company has to offer including possible open positions.”

One career fair taking place on campus is the Engineering Employment Expo on Sept. 23 and 24. According to Stites, 4,000 students are expected to attend each day and there will be 250 companies present.

She also said that attending career fairs on campus is crucial for students who want to begin relationships with employers, which can be hard to obtain over a resume alone.

Shelby Cooper, junior in ACES, agrees with Stites, and said it is important for students to take advantage of the career fairs on campus for the benefit of networking with professionals in various companies and fields.

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“My freshman year, I decided to go to the ACES career fair at the last minute,” Cooper said. “From meeting someone at that career fair, I landed an interview and an internship for the following summer. Students should attend career fairs to make connections for future career options.”

Cooper said she has attended the October ACES and Science Career Fair both her freshman and sophomore year, and plans to attend the upcoming one on Oct. 9 at the ARC.

Cooper described the ACES and Science Fair as an opportunity to meet with professionals that can provide the jobs students will want after graduation.

“It’s an opportunity to make a good first impression with alumni and ask questions to find out if you would be interested in working for that company,” Cooper said. “It’s a good way to give out your resume and spread your job objectives to important people.”

Students should feel confident while speaking with the professionals at the career fair, according to Cooper. One way to bolster confidence is to be prepared by prepping and printing resumes, and to create an “elevator speech,” or a short speech explaining the reasons as to why a potential candidate should be hired.

It’s also important to dress the part: a suit for men and a dress suit and closed toe shoes for women.

Some important questions to ask, according to Cooper, include questions about the job positions, what the companies are looking for in an employee, how much it pays, when the position begins and how the business is managed.

“Make an impression somehow,” she said. “Find something in common. Talk up your experiences, past jobs, anything.”

Cody Williams, junior in Business, is another student planning to attend one of the campus’ career fairs this fall.

Williams said he has attended the Business Career Fairs in Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, and Spring 2014 and will be attending the upcoming one Wednesday, Sept. 17, and Thursday, Sept.18.

“I first attended the career fair as a freshman because it was required for my Business 101 class,” Williams said. “Other students should attend because it gives you face-to-face contact with recruiters and it gets you practice giving your elevator speech and presenting yourself in a professional way.”

According to Williams, some companies were reluctant to talk to freshmen, but most recruiters and professionals were friendly.

“It never hurts to brush up on Illini sports either,” he said. “University alums love talking about Illini sports.”

Williams said another way to prepare is to check out various companies presented.

“Visit as many companies as you can, be yourself and have fun with it,” Williams said. “We, as University students, are extremely lucky to have so many companies coming down to specifically recruit us.”

Christine can be reached at [email protected].