Rise to the Top at the Career Fair

Office Politics: A Rise to the Top

It’s career fair week at UW-Whitewater! If you’re looking for a spring or summer internship (that’s spring and summer 2012), you will definitely want to attend the Hawk Career Fair this Wednesday, September 28 from noon to 4 pm in the Williams Center, Gym 1.

44 of the 111 employers coming to the fair are looking to connect with potential interns. You can pull up this list by logging into Hawk Jobs and going through the “Career Fairs & Workshops” page or finding it on the Home page as an Upcoming Event.

How to Be Prepared

  • Get your resume ready. At this point, it’s ideal if your resume is good to go. Now, get your print copies prepared. Print your resume on high quality, thicker paper. No regular printer paper here. Gray or off-white are good color selections. You can pick up “resume paper” from the UWW Bookstore or you can find heavier stock paper at Walmart. Print out several copies, enough to hand out to the employers you wish to talk to.
  • Figure out who you want to talk to. With over 100 employers attending, Gym 1 is going to be a packed place. Develop a plan of attack well before the fair. First, access the list of attending employers, search to identify who might be offering the types of opportunities you’re looking for, and start doing your research. When you arrive at the fair, the list of employers with a corresponding map of the gym will be available to help you find your way around.
  • Set out your career fair outfit. The preferred attire for the Hawk Career Fair is business professional. At a minimum, come in business casual dress. Whatever you wear, make sure that it is clean, wrinkle-free, and conservative.
  • Leave the backpack at home. Yes, you’re a student and obviously the employers know it. Nonetheless, employers need to envision you as a professional. Backpacks scream student and throw off the image you want to project. Instead, pick up a nice portfolio (you can find UWW ones at the Bookstore) to carry your resumes in. If you get one that has a pad of paper in it, write down the questions you’ve prepared for your target employers and bring a pen to jot down any notes as you go.
  • Practice your self-pitch. Career fairs are really just networking events. You will be approaching recruiters that you’ve never met before, so first impressions are very important. Make a solid impression by having a well-prepared introduction that captures your personal brand. This also includes a handshake. Practice shaking hands with your friends or roommates until it’s just right.

I wish you all the best as you attack the career fair. I hope you make some good connections and that those connections lead to opportunities.

Photo by Alex Proimos

Last-Minute Internship Search: Employer Sourcing

Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal

Last week, I started a series of posts on the last-minute internship search. Time is running down for securing an internship for this summer. For some of you, you have been diligently searching and applying for months with no luck. Others of you may just be starting now. Either way, my hope is that these tips help you achieve your professional development goals for the summer.

Last week, I covered the most basic search strategy, using internship postings. This week, my focus is on a slightly more proactive approach to your search: Employer Sourcing. This strategy boils down to identifying and connecting with potential employers in your geographical search area that employ individuals doing your ideal job. Considering the majority of jobs are never advertised, connecting directly with employers increases your access to opportunities.

So, how do you use employer sourcing to your advantage?

  • Identify Employers. The obvious starting point for this strategy is seeking out the actual organizations. There are lots of resources available to help you in this process:
  • Research the Organizations. Researching the organizations you identify is a crucial step. In this case, you need to be educated on what an organization does and what current needs it has in order to effectively reach out to them. Conduct your research using resources available through the Andersen Library and general web searches.
  • Identify and Match Needs with Skills/Goals. Use your time researching to identify some of the needs the organization has, and then consider how those needs connect with the skills you possess and the goals you have for your internship. When you eventually reach out to the organization, matching these areas will 1) reflect you did your homework and 2) help focus the conversation.
  • Identify the Person with the Power to Say “Yes.” A common misconception when it comes to directly reaching out to a company is that Human Resources is THE department to work with. While you might begin your contact with HR, you ultimately want to identify the person in the organization who would have the power to hire you. Most often, this will be a manager in the department you’d like to work in. If it’s a smaller organization lacking actual departments, you might reach out to the owner, executive director, or whoever heads the organization.
  • Reach Out. Here’s where the rubber hits the road. You’ve done your research, understood where you could fit in, and identified the right person to talk to. Now it’s time to talk. You could do this solely by phone or contact the individual about setting up a face-to-face meeting.
    • Prepare a script for phone calls. Provide a basic introduction (name, university, major), identify your interest in the organization, make note of relevant skills you possess, and inquire about opportunities.
    • Avoid asking if they have any internships available. If an organization doesn’t have an “internship,” their “no” will shut down your conversation. Instead, approach it in the following way: “I am reaching out to you because I would like to discuss opportunities in your organization for an internship this summer…” You’re opening up a discussion instead of asking a yes/no question.
    • Be polite, courteous, and professional.
  • Follow Up. There are a couple ways to follow-up. First, if you meet in person or have a particularly lengthy phone conversation, send a thank you note within 24 hours. You can do this by email or go the little extra step of sending a hand-written note. About a week after your conversation, follow up with the person by phone or email. This is an opportunity to revisit any loose ends from the initial conversation and to reiterate your interest in working for the organization.

Employer sourcing is the first in a series of proactive steps towards securing an internship. It will also come into play as part of another strategy I’ll write about in a couple weeks.

Photo by Nimish Gogri

Question of the Week:

Have you ever directly contacted a company/organization about internship possibilities? If so, what tips would you give to newbies for a successful contact?

Last-Minute Internship Search

The Point of No Return

On Monday, I hosted my “Last-Minute Internship Search” workshop. I covered a variety of strategies that students can employ at this point in the semester in order to hopefully secure an internship for this summer…which is only about a month, month-and-a-half away.

I know that there are still plenty of people in this last-minute boat. So for the next few weeks, I am going to cover a strategy you can use at this point in the internship search game. This week’s focus: Internship Postings.

Essentially, internship postings are electronic want ads. Many of you are likely using this resource: searching online internship/job boards is easy. But the ease and volume of users is one of this strategy’s downfalls. Internships that are posted have higher exposure, leading to more applicants and more competition.

While perusing internship postings seems like a no-brainer strategy, here’s how to do it effectively:

  • Identify positions of interest. Most internship posting sites allow you to search in a number of ways. You can use keywords to narrow down options or possibly sort by industry or job category. On the other hand, you might be able to pull up EVERY internship listed. This can be helpful if you’re not sure what you’re looking for – you can gain some insight into what types of internships appeal to you and work from there.
    • UW-Whitewater Internships Website, “Find an Internship” section: Access Hawk Jobs, General Search Resources, and Field-Specific Programs/Resources.
    • Hawk Jobs: Within Hawk Jobs, UW-W students can access some “hidden” treasures. Navigate to the Career Resources section along the top menu. EmployOn and Internships.com are both excellent.
  • Research the organization. The importance of employer research can’t be stressed enough. The information you gather about an organization should be used as you craft your application materials and during the interview process. Here are some questions to explore:
    • What does the organization do?
    • What is the size of the organization?
    • How is the organization structured?
    • What is the organization’s reputation?
    • What are the credentials of their top leaders?
  • Understand the application process. Worst-case scenario: You find an internship you would LOVE, and then completely miss the application deadline. Know how to apply and mark applicable deadlines.
  • Adapt your application materials. Targeting your resume is key at any point in time, but I might argue it’s even more important now. You want to stand apart from the competition in the best way possible. Make it easy for an employer to “see” how you are qualified. Develop a cover letter specifically for the given internship and for the particular organization. Your cover letter provides you with an opportunity to go more in depth about what you bring to the table, especially important if this would be your first internship. Work with a career counselor on both of these important documents.
  • Submit your materials. Enough said.
  • Follow up. Follow-up is a key step in the process, but it’s also a delicate one. Follow up too soon, too often, or too inappropriately and you can erase any chance of getting an interview. First, only follow up on your application IF it’s ok. Some organizations will specifically state, “No Calls.” If you see this, don’t follow up. If follow-up is an option, as is most often the case, then do so just before the deadline or 2 weeks after your application submission. You can check that they received your materials, ask what the next step in the process is, inquire what the anticipated timeline is for the process, and express your continued interest in the position. Short, sweet, to the point.

Be sure to start NOW and work at your search consistently. Not much time remains. Next Monday, I’ll cover Employer Sourcing. Stayed tuned!

Photo by Pat Hawks

Question of the Week:

What is your favorite site for finding posted internships?

Internship To-Dos for a Snowy Winter’s Day

How many of you will be seeking an internship for Summer 2011?

Winter break is quickly approaching and come the end of January, the rush for summer internships will be on. Don’t want to be left in the dust? Here are some winter break to-dos to get you on top of the internship search game:

  • Get your paperwork in order. You want to be ready to hit the ground running for your internship search as soon as spring semester begins. Over the break, take the time to update and polish your resume. First of all, add information from your fall semester: a new part-time job, student organization memberships, etc. Second, craft your resume to speak to the types of internships you’re applying for: highlight the relevant and reconsider the irrelevant. Remember, Career & Leadership Development is open during the break. You can schedule an appointment to review your resume or send it to us via email at career@uww.edu.
  • Start your research. Some organizations have started posting summer internships. Others won’t until closer to February. Either way, begin browsing what’s out there and get a sense of what employers are looking for. Start exploring possible internship sites in the geographical area you hope to be in. Learn about organizations you’re interested in working for. Do some internship homework while you have a break from academic coursework.
  • Get your networking on. Are you planning to live at home this summer? While you’re there for winter break,  build your network and/or contact people you know. Reach out to organizations that might be able to host an intern in the work you wish to do. Set up informational interviews. Talk with your parents or family friends and put the word out that you are seeking a summer internship. Start working your connections now!

I will be on hiatus until the week of January 17th. Please consider applying for January’s Intern Spotlight! I would love to feature more intern stories next semester!

I’d love to hear ideas for future blog post topics, too – Leave me a comment, email me at MorrowL@uww.edu, or tweet me at uwwinternships.

Have a safe and happy winter break!

Photo by liz west