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Bench Talk for Design Engineers

Bench Talk

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Bench Talk for Design Engineers | The Official Blog of Mouser Electronics


Engineering Career Fairs: Go...And Go Often Deborah Ray

If you’re an engineering student, you’ll likely have the opportunity to attend one or more engineering career fairs, which are meet-and-greet opportunities that bring together prospective employers and students looking for internships. For many of us, career fairs aren’t the easiest of communication environments; they’re noisy and bustling with people, and at larger fairs, there’s a lot to see and absorb. Add in the fact that you’re (a) meeting prospective employers and (b) expected to talk about yourself while (c) fellow students and professors look on, and the scenario can become overwhelming for even the more extroverted among us. No pressure, right?!

For these reasons, many students make the mistake of waiting until they’re ready to apply for internships to attend. Attending at least one career fair before you’re actively seeking an internship helps you know what to expect, which goes a long way toward easing nerves when the pressure is on to land your own internship. Keep in mind, too, that career fairs offer something that you won’t find in other interview situations: Because these fairs are geared toward students, hiring managers and representatives aim to create the most friendly and positive experiences possible. While they do expect you to be prepared, they want to see you succeed in these initial interviews because that helps them discover how your strengths and interests align with their needs.  

Attending early on and throughout your degree program offers many benefits as well. You’ve heard the expression, “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know?” The people you meet at career fairs, whether they’re hiring managers or people representing vendors in the industry, are part of a larger professional network that you’re entering. You’ll likely cross paths again with the people you meet at the fair at some time in the future no matter which internship you choose. And every time you meet—say, at multiple career fairs—solidifies that person in your network.

Also, the same hiring managers and company representatives often participate in the same fairs from year to year, which gives you an opportunity to meet them multiple times and build a rapport. Think of it this way: Is it easier to chat with someone you just met, or is it easier to chat with someone you’ve met before? Probably the latter. If you’ve attended even one career fair before you’re actively applying for internships, you would have the prior experience to draw on. Initiating a conversation with, “Hi, I’m Justin Smith…we met at last year’s career fair…it’s nice to see you again,” is much easier than introducing yourself for the first time. Even if you don’t remember someone’s face or name, being able to say, “Hi, I’m Justin Smith…I chatted with someone from your company last year,” can help you stand out as being interested and proactive.

Some of your most vocal advocates might—surprisingly—be your classmates, particularly ones who have recently completed or are currently completing their internships. Oftentimes, current or recent interns become student ambassadors for the company by answering questions and providing details about projects, people, and environment. Getting insider information from peers in your program can be a goldmine, especially in unearthing opportunities that are an unexpected match with your interests or in getting information about a lesser-known company.

Your more senior classmates are often your best advocates as well. Why? They know you, they know the company’s internship program, and they want to help companies recruit the best up-and-coming candidates. Case in point: My son recently attended a career fair where one of his peers was chatting with a hiring manager at a well-known company. Turned out that the student ambassador was a current intern at the company, enthusiastically introduced my son to the hiring manager, and all but insisted that they interview him. Your peers’ enthusiasm speaks volumes, and career fairs are a unique opportunity for this sort of in-person peer recommendation to happen.

So go, and go often! If your program’s career fair is still months away, consider attending other career fairs at your school. You never know who you might meet, and it’s a great low-pressure way to gain experience and ease pressure when the time comes to apply for your own internship.



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Deborah RayDeborah Ray joined Mouser in early 2017 as Executive Editor of Technical Publications, bringing more than 20 years of experience in technical publishing. As an author, she has coauthored more than 20 computer books, has published a dozen journal articles, and previously authored two nationally syndicated newspaper columns. Deborah spent 11 years as Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TECHWR-L Magazine, the oldest and one of the largest online publications for technical communicators worldwide. As an educator, Deborah has taught graduate courses in technical communication at three universities, as well as undergraduate engineering communications courses, in traditional, online, and broadcast classrooms. She currently serves on the editorial board of directors for IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication.


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