Posts tagged #college students

How to...Land Your Dream Job (or Internship) at the Career Fair


I attended my first career fair on a sunny spring day in April 2005.  Armed with professional printouts of my resume (albeit rather light on experience as I was a freshman in college) and the fanciest attire I owned (which was a mishmash of business casual separates at the time), I was ready to wow the recruiters and land a summer internship.

Two hours later, I left the business school with no prospects.  Most of the companies were looking for full-time hires, not interns.  And I was the epitome of a "green" freshman who made a lot of first-time mistakes; not exactly desirable intern material.

That said, what I remember most about the day was a recruiter congratulating me on putting myself out there as a freshman - better to make mistakes when it doesn't matter than during crunch time my junior and senior years!  Or, to put it in baseball terms, I was utilizing my "spring training" well to practice for the World Series.

Career Fairs were an integral part of my early success in finding internships and a full-time job.  I attended every fair when I was an undergrad at Miami (Ohio) as a way to practice and perfect my elevator pitch and to learn about different companies and opportunities.  I found that a personal connection with a person, rather than an email or online application, made the difference between my resume being put in the "yes" pile over the "no" or the "we'll get to it later" piles.

 After graduating, I had the opportunity to attend Career Fairs as a company representative rather than a job seeker, and learned what "the other side of the desk" is looking for in their ideal candidate.  With fall college Career Fairs coming up this month and next, it's a great time to refresh yourself on the elements for success in landing that dream internship or job.

Before the Career Fair

Research the companies and jobs that will be in attendance: Many (if not all) schools publish a list of the companies and jobs/majors they are recruiting in advance for students to reference.  As a student, I studied this and only visited companies where I fit what they needed.  I also created research packets on each organization so I knew basic information like locations, size, services/products, financial information (if publicly traded), and career information from their website.  All this information was accessible online and allowed me to showcase my ability to prepare in advance.  It also allowed me to avoid wasting time asking basic questions that I should already know the answer to if I am truly interested in the job.  When I was on the other side, it drove me crazy when someone asked what our company did or where we were located.  Those are basic facts you should know if you want to come talk to anyone about a job; otherwise, you are wasting your time and theirs.

Game plan your route: At Miami, there would often be 200 - 300 organizations with tables set up around Millet Hall, and I tried to visit 5 - 7 during a two hour block of time.  I used a few criteria to determine which order I would visit each table.  First, I wanted to start with a few "warm ups" - companies I liked but were not my "dream jobs" so I could get any nervousness out in a less stressful environment but still being productive with the recruiter and my time.  I never went to a table where, after research, I was not at least open to working/interning there.  I also considered wait times for the most popular companies and made sure I didn't wait too long to visit them and risk running out of time.  Finally, I did not want to trek back and forth around the building ten times, so I looked for natural groupings by location as I developed the order of my visits.

Plan your attire: I mentioned above that I showed up in business casual to my first Career Fair.  I did not own a suit, and as a 19-year-old I could not imagine spending hundreds of dollars on something I would wear once or twice a year.  Looking back, I now see the importance of investing in a good suit - it is a necessary purchase in order to secure a job (that will pay off the suit and then some)!  Even on a tight budget, there are good suiting options available for men and women.  J. Crew Factory is a personal favorite of mine for inexpensive, high quality suits.  Look for navy or charcoal; they will be the most versatile and prevent you from looking like you are going to a funeral.  

Practice your elevator speech: Think through what you are going to say to each company you talk to.  You should have a 30-second summary of who you are (name, major, what you are looking for as far as an internship/job, noteworthy/unique item about yourself, and how you could add value for Company X).  Stand in front of a mirror in your suit and practice saying this over and over until it feels comfortable.  And then practice it five more times!  

Print your resume at a copy shop: Nothing screams professional quite like a resume on heavy white or cream paper.  The converse is the resume that is printed on standard white copy paper from a personal printer, and the differences are shocking.  Make a good first impression, take an extra 15 minutes (and probably $10), and have your resume professionally printed!

During the Career Fair

Limit the swag: Other than a pen (blue or black) and the portfolio you are bringing with copies of your resume, your game plan, and questions for each company, you should not carry anything around with you.  Leave your phone at home (shocking, I know) and gracefully decline the "swag" that companies want to hand out.  I was never impressed with candidates who showed up with bags of water bottles, pens, coasters...the list goes on.  Besides, everyone ends up tossing those things out at home anyways.  A polite "thank you but no thank you" should suffice.

Execute your game plan: You are ready!  Go up to each table, share your elevator speech, have a few questions prepared for each company (take notes on the answers), and ask for clear information on next steps in the recruiting process.  

After the Career Fair

Send follow up notes: In my experience, we went through and made decisions on our "yes" and "no" piles the night of the Career Fair to determine which candidates would move forward.  Candidates who sent follow up notes immediately were looked upon with favor.  After all, it only takes a few minutes to send a thank you email, and today you can send it from your smartphone (we weren't so lucky back in 2006).  Take five minutes, set yourself apart, and send a thank you note.

Attending company receptions/events: Oftentimes, companies will have receptions or open houses the night of the career fair or shortly thereafter.  If people have already traveled for the event (especially to a small college town in the middle of nowhere like Oxford, OH), it makes sense to couple a few events together.  If you are invited to attend, do everything you can to do so.  When you do, wear a suit or dressy business casual, come prepared with questions, arrive early, and sit in the front.  Take notes (on paper, not on your laptop or tablet).  Do not bring your dinner - especially something that smells.  Do not look at your phone.  This is an important opportunity to impress the company and move your resume up on the "yes" list.   We always consider every interaction, not just the resume or the career fair conversation or an interview, when determining which candidates to offer jobs.  While we understood that things come up or there are unique circumstances (e.g. you are coming straight from football practice and are five minutes late/in athletic apparel), these are things you want to be proactive in sharing ahead of time.  For the most part, these events are just as important as a job interview and should be treated as such.

From here, it's time to start preparing for the interview process!  For assistance with this, visit my post on interviewing here or pick up a copy of my book, The Savvy Young Professional: A Twenty-Somethings Essential Career Guide, here.


Posted on September 11, 2017 and filed under Job Search Toolkit, Networking.

Networking During the Holiday Season


While corporate productivity tends to slip during the holiday season, networking opportunities abound through the extra parties and events during this time of the year.  Whether you are home from college and looking for an internship or full-time job, or considering a career change, networking in November and December is a great way to set yourself up for big opportunities in January.  And as we approach a new year, what better way to get a head start resetting and refocusing your career than by expanding your network?

Be prepared.  You never know when you might meet someone in your industry of choice or at your dream company.  Always carry a handful of business cards so you can share your contact information easily.  For example, my husband and I met the CEO of his company’s main competitor at a post-Thanksgiving party a few years ago - what better way to meet someone from your industry than through a mutual friend at a party?  Also, make sure to have an updated resume ready to email out anytime; you never know when you might get a request for your resume, and you don't want to wait more than 24 hours to follow up on the request.  Which takes us to number two...

Follow up - within 24 hours.  A quick follow up not only shows that you are excited about the connection, but it also increases the odds that the other person will remember you.  It’s easy to be forgotten during the busiest time of the year, and the longer you wait, the easier you are to forget.  On the other hand, a fast and thoughtful follow up sharing how much you appreciated meeting the other person will go a long way toward building a real connection.

Strategize.  Just because you are going home for the holidays doesn’t mean your job search has to go on vacation, because your network at home is probably bigger than you realize.  Think about the careers and networks of your family, family friends, and neighbors for a minute.  Until I started looking for a job, I never realized the people and companies that were represented in my network or thought about how I could use these relationships to gain an introduction or information on a company.  Along with your immediate family, websites like LinkedIn make researching your home network simple and fast.

Practice your pitch.  There are a plethora of opportunities to meet people during the holiday season, which means there are just as many opportunities to introduce yourself.  Prepare and practice your “elevator pitch”; a 30 second summary of you, your current situation (student, employed in such-and-such field, etc) and your career interests.  Do not let a prime introduction opportunity go to waste because you aren’t prepared!

Job Search Toolkit: Résumés - Your Story on Paper (Part 4)

The "Education" section of the résumé oftentimes is overlooked as a necessary placeholder to list colleges and degrees.  Done correctly, the Education section can elevate your résumé to the must-interview list, regardless of where you attended school.

During your time in school as well as up to five years post-graduation, your education section plays an important role in telling your story beyond listing where you went to school and what degree(s) you earned.  Here's why: employers look for people's behaviors, as past behavior is a great predictor of future success.  Undergraduate and graduate education is a great opportunity to demonstrate the behaviors that potential employers seek, and it's easy to make the connections.  For example...

  • A high GPA probably means that you're a hard worker who prepared for classes and exams.
  • Scholarships mean that you excelled in a particular area, and that you had the drive and determination to succeed in a competitive arena (sports, academics, etc).
  • Awards are similar to scholarships; you excelled at something and competed to win against a number of other qualified candidates.
  • Leadership and elected positions mean you inspired confidence in others to take responsibility for a student organization or event.  
  • Volunteer positions mean you care about other people and are inspired to give back to your community.

Applying this to the education section of your résumé takes it from the content in Example A to the content in Example B.

Example A


Miami University, Oxford, OH;                                                                                           2004 - 2008

  • Bachelor of Science in Marketing and Supply Chain Management
  • GPA: 3.8 / 4.0
  • Vice President, Recruitment - Delta Pi Sigma Business Fraternity
  • Big Brothers, Big Sisters Volunteer

Example B


Miami University, Oxford, OH;                                                                                           2004 - 2008

  • Bachelor of Science in Marketing and Supply Chain Management
  • GPA: 3.8 / 4.0; Graduated Magna Cum Laude; Top 5% of class and a Beta Gamma Sigma Business Honorary Scholar
  • Vice President, Recruitment - Delta Pi Sigma Business Fraternity: Selected by peers among five candidates to lead competitive recruitment program for fraternity membership.   
  • Distinguished Department Scholar: Chosen by Marketing department professors among all marketing senior majors (315 total) as the Department Scholar
  • Academic Excellence Scholarship: Awarded an annual scholarship of $15,000 (75% of tuition costs) based on high school and college academic achievement.  Self-funded remaining tuition.
  • Big Brothers, Big Sisters Volunteer
  • Study Abroad Experience: Miami University Luxembourg (Summer 2007)

Example B gives a much clearer view of the candidate and how their previous behavior will translate to future behaviors.  The candidate in Example B comes across as hard working, determined, socially-confident, and financially-savvy.  Almost everyone has these types of attributes and value to highlight, but rarely do I see a candidate highlight how well they did in comparison to others, especially in the "Education" section.  In some cases you could further expand the content later in the "Experience" section, giving a well-rounded view of your accomplishments during your undergraduate and/or graduate years will give employers a well-rounded picture of who you are.  This is especially important if you have less than five years of work experience, as the Education section is more prominent.

Job Search Toolkit: Résumés - Your Story on Paper (Part 3)

Fall.  It's my favorite time of the year.  The crisp cool air, memories of going back to school, and the feeling of being extra-motivated for the year ahead.  Now, I love going back to campus to recruit students.  The only memories I do not cherish are the years I was also job or internship-searching in the fall - it's much easier being on the other side of the interviewing table!  

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In  light of this time of year, today I want to start going through résumés step-by-step, starting with the header. Every piece of a résumé is important, and as the first thing the reader sees, your header must capture their attention and make them want to keep reading. 

So, what should you include in the header?

Your full name.

Your mailing address.

Your email address.

Your phone number.

Sounds simple, right?  It should be simple, but I've placed people in the "no" pile simply due to their header.  Here is why...

An unprofessional email address.  Be safe and use your name as your email address, with a gmail or yahoo - type account that will not expire after graduation.  Never place your work email address on your résumé.

Formatting errors within their header.  I've seen multiple fonts, center and left justification, and countless other formatting inconsistencies in headers.  If something so simple has errors, I have no interest in reading the rest of the document.

An objective statement about "seeking a challenging position in finance" or "an internship that leverages my analytical skills".  Objective statements are the worst uses of space on a résumé.  If you are applying to jobs, what is your objective other than to gain employment in that field?  What purpose does it serve to list it on your résumé?  The objective statement is a present-day shortcut to the well-crafted cover letter, which is a must to set yourself apart in the job market.

Your header can be as simple as the following:

Easy, right?  Let your accomplishments and the professionalism of your résumé differentiate you, not crazy fonts or unique formatting that requires the reader to search for information.

There are nuances to each part of a resume, even the header.  I've included guidance on frequently asked questions.

Résumé Header FAQs

Where does the header belong?

I prefer to see a header center-justified at the top of the page, with the name on the top line and in a noticeably larger font than the rest of the information.  This makes it easy to remember your name and tie it to your information.

What name should I use if I changed my last name (e.g. due to marriage, divorce, etc)?

Your name is a key piece of your brand.  If you have legally changed last names and are using a different last name than what is commonly known, I recommend using your new last name, followed by née [former last name] all in parenthesis.  "Née" means "formerly" in French and is common terminology to indicate a last name change.  For me, this looks like: KaLeena S. Thomas (née Weaver)

If I am in college, should I use my college address or my home address?

It depends.  From a simplicity standpoint, using one mailing address is easier for the reader to navigate and it keeps the top of your résumé from being too "busy".  Companies use your mailing address infrequently, usually only to send you an "official" offer letter (most are emailed) and to set up new hire paperwork.  

If you are applying to smaller companies in different areas of the country while in college, seeing a non-local address may deter them as they may not typically fly candidates in to interview.  In this case, if your permanent address is a local address for that organization, use both your permanent and current address.  This will indicate that you are familiar with the area, intend to move back after graduation, and available to travel (likely on your own dime) for an interview.  If you want to move somewhere else specifically and can move immediately, it's oftentimes easier to move first and then find a local job.  It frees you up to interview any time without a commute and solidifies your interest in and willingness to move for an opportunity.

Should I use my university email address?

No, unless you are positive your university will keep this email address "active" permanently and you want to manage this inbox into the future.  Many universities will disable accounts a year after graduation, meaning those with your university email will get a bounce back rather than reaching you.  Why risk missing out on an opportunity?  Set up a free email using a configuration of your name (see example above) and route everything through this email.

Posted on September 19, 2015 and filed under Job Search Toolkit, Resume.

Job Search Toolkit: Résumés - Your Story on Paper (Part 2)

I had the pleasure of attending lunch with our new undergraduate co-ops from Georgia Tech on Friday.  What an impressive group!  They asked great questions, behaved professionally, and gracefully accepted feedback.  The entire luncheon consisted of our CEO, a couple members from my team, the co-ops, and myself at a great restaurant in Atlanta. 

Our CEO loves reading and reviewing resumes from the perspective of using them to understand the person and their motivations.  My team provided him with copies of each co-op's résumé in advance of the lunch, and he proceeded to study the content and mark up the formatting.  Over lunch, he shared feedback with each co-op, gave them the redlined documents, and had a conversation about his initial observations of them based on the content in their résumé.  While some of the feedback consisted of cleaning up the formatting, the more interesting observations were about what their résumé said about their personality, motivations, and aspirations.

My favorite idea related to strengthening your résumé was to start by making a list of the attributes you want to convey and the things you aspire to, and to then create your content based on this list.  For example, if you want to show that you are a leader, your résumé should highlight leadership behaviors and experiences such as being selected by your classmates or a boss to lead a group project, a vote by a sports team to be the captain, or a time that you started a project, task force, or club and had to inspire others to join you in this new venture.  Leadership is not about forcing your will on someone else, it is about inspiring others to follow you.  Make sure the content on your resume matches who you are.

Make your list privately and be honest about what you want to convey and what you aspire to.  If you want to make a lot of money, write it down.  If you want power, write it down.  Your list might look something like this:


  • Leader
  • Giving
  • Strong Academics
  • Motivated
  • Determined
  • Team Player
  • Financial Acumen
  • Organized
  • Detail-Oriented


  • Become a VP at a Financial Services Firm
  • Live in Chicago
  • Gain Experience in Private Equity
  • Start my Own Wealth Management Company 

Look at your current résumé.  Does it tell the story of who you are and what you want to be, or is it a list of jobs, internships, and academics in chronological order?  In many cases, résumés are just a listing of information without a consistent theme or story pulling the information together about the person behind the résumé.  I also see many résumés that have inconsistent formatting or are so disorganized I cannot follow them, leading me to believe that the person who crafted this document lacks attention to detail and organizational skills.  It's kind of like dating, where your résumé is the equivalent of a first date.  It's common to be at the top of your game on a first date, so if you went out with someone for the first time and they were rude to people, late, and generally obnoxious, you probably would not want to see them again.  It is the same concept for your résumé.  If the first thing a potential employer sees about you is poor grammar or formatting, their confidence that you can perform will decrease and they probably will not call you in for an interview.

Using this methodology can help you create a consistent message about who you are and help you position yourself for opportunities that are in line with your aspirations.Once you make this list, you can use the information to match experiences and accomplishments with each attribute and develop the content for your résumé.  I'll share an example of this in Part 3.