Career Fair Provides Insight and Experience

By Abby Wargo
Student Life Editor

For students looking for internship and job opportunities this summer, they won’t have to go further than Hodson. On Sept. 28 from 3-6:30 p.m., the Career Center is hosting their annual Career Fair.

“[The Career Fair] is an opportunity for students to connect with employers to pursue internships, full time positions, or graduate or professional schools,” said Nanette Cooley, executive director for career development.

This year, the Career Fair boasts over 40 different employers and graduate schools, according to Cooley. These organizations can be non-profits, for-profits, educational, or community service-based. The Career Center aims to provide a variety of employers from various fields, and this year, there are 18 new employers present in an effort to diversify the industry sectors represented.

Some of the new representatives in attendance are Under Armour, the National Aquarium, MGM National Harbor, and City Year.  The complete list of employers is on the College Central Network.

A new feature of the Career Fair is the requirement of professional attire.

“We want students to dress according to industry standards, so students interested in finance or business should dress more conservative than, say, a more creative profession like advertising,” Cooley said.

In addition to looking the part, students are encouraged to bring along a prepared resume to give to representatives of interest. To prepare, on Sept. 25, the Career Center is offering a resume review drop-in day, when students can bring in their resumes for review by a Career Center employee and get feedback. Even if students aren’t able to attend, Cooley encouraged resume reviews in advance.

The Career Fair is geared toward any Washington College student, regardless of major or class.

“Any student from any major could be hired; for example, if you major in environmental studies, a company could still offer you a position in marketing. Majors don’t always correlate with traditional paths,” she said.

Underclassmen who may not be looking for internships or jobs just yet also have something to gain from attending.

“First- or second-year students can collect information on the various opportunities and use [the Career Fair] as a networking tool. It helps them get a jump start [on their career path],” Cooley said, “and to understand how the whole program works. It’s a dry run where they can observe upperclassmen and understand how they might approach a potential employer just from watching.”

According to Cooley, the Career Fair helps students make connections with employers in their field and develop a focus for searches. Attending can give students tips on the interview process and insight on what the ideal candidate for a particular job would look like.In a competitive job market, that can make all the difference.

“Once students understand what’s valued [in a candidate], they can tailor their [college] experience to best meet their needs. Anything that can distinguish a candidate against all the rest will be to their advantage, and career fairs can help with that,” Cooley said.

Students interested in attending the Career Fair should have a plan in place before they visit. Cooley said that students should review the list of employers attending the fair to target interesting opportunities. From there, students can conduct research on that company or graduate school in order to have a clear understanding of what those jobs require of an employee or student.

Reading up on the industry, learning about the top-level executives in the field, reading newspaper articles, current events, and the Wall Street Journal are all great ways to become an informed candidate, according to Cooley.

“From there, you can craft your elevator pitch—how you introduce yourself and break the ice with your potential employer,” Cooley said, “practice your introduction; have special questions prepared in advance—smart questions that drive the conversation demonstrate your level of interest.”

For most students, promoting themselves and their accomplishments is difficult, and often walks a fine line with bragging. However, confidence and a clear articulation of achievements is a great way to distance the other candidates.

“Students need to learn to be comfortable talking about their experiences—talking about research you’ve done, leadership roles you’ve had, or athletics can help your interview be more successful,” she said.

The fair is purposely held in September so that students won’t miss out on early application deadlines, because summer internship applications are often due in the fall. The Career Center is planning on holding another fair in the spring that is geared toward industries with later application times.

“Career Fairs can be intimidating, especially for more introverted people, but it is good practice to get exposed to the job hunting process,” Cooley said.

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