“Be yourself! Yes, I’m looking at your resume but I’m also looking at you! Show me some personality and have something to say that will make you stand out from the others! Oh and have fun!” —Tina Avakian, Associate Director, Industry Engagement

Q: What is Industry Engagement and what do you do?

A: The industry engagement team works within the Career Center here at UC San Diego. We are the branch of the Career Center that goes out and builds relationships with all of the companies that return to campus each year to hire Tritons! We execute all the major Careers Fairs, Employer Information Sessions, on-campus Interviews and other career focused events. The four Associate Directors have over 50 years of combined experience in the recruitment and relationship management profession and are not new to helping people make the connections they need to succeed.

Q: What can students do between now and graduation to best prepare themselves for future employment?

Richard Rathburn (Senior Associate Director, Industry Engagement): Gain as much experience dealing with people as you can and practice speaking about those experiences. Whether that is a group project in one of your classes, interactions with customers or co-workers at your part-time job, leading a project for a student club/organization, or volunteering with a group of people for a certain cause you are passionate about. It is all great experience you can include for the first part of that suggestion. The key is to recognize that these things have taught you something and reflect on what that is.

As well from my experience, employers want to know HOW you are able to interact with others in a group setting and what you have done to practice that skill. I like to recommend students keep a “professional journal” where they can keep a log of personal and professional interactions with others that they can use to practice or look back on. For example, the time you got paired with a really difficult partner for a project when you were a freshmen. How did you differ and what was the root of the problem? What did you do in that situation to work well with that person? What was the outcome? These are the things you could record in your journal!

Q: At job fairs, what common mistakes do students make?

Tina Avakian: When students don’t bring enough resumes, often time’s recruiters are making decisions on who we want to interview right after the fair, so don’t count on email as your backup. Make more copies than you think you’ll need. They will be put to good use! Also, stay away from questions like, “What are you hiring for?” or “What does your company do?” It is painfully obvious when students don’t prepare before the event. Do your research! Look up the companies that you’re interested in before the event and learn about their organization and internships/jobs they are hiring for. This will make you more confident when you step up to talk about why you’re a perfect fit for my company.

Q: At job fairs, what makes students stand out?

Tina Avakian: I love when student’s walks up and mention something they read on our website or heard about in the news. This shows they came prepared and are really interested in working for us! Being confident and smiling through the nerves will also make you stand out.

Q: Do you have any other advice for students attending job fairs?

Erik Mjoen (Associate Director, Industry Engagement): Do your research. Spend some time and review the list of companies attending. There are some great companies out there that most students are not aware of. Look up the companies web page, read about their technology and what types of positions they recruit for. Locate them on the career fair map and lay out strategy for which ones you would like to approach.

Make a list of alternate companies in case lines are too long. Don’t wait in line for an hour to talk to one company if you could meet with 5-10 other companies in the same amount time.

Remember, bigger is not always better. There are some fantastic start-ups and privately held companies out there that can be amazing places to start your career. Small companies can often times offer broader exposure and more responsibilities because the employees have to wear many hats.

Have an elevator pitch prepared (and rehearsed!).  Keep in mind that you only have the attention of the recruiter for a few minutes so you want to deliver a short and effective message of who you are, your experience/expertise, how you can add value to the company, and the type of opportunity you are looking for.  A good elevator pitch will make you stand out and leave a lasting impression.

Finally, take notes.  You won’t have time to speak to everyone, but you can always follow up with companies later or attend their information sessions when they come back to campus.

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