Your guide to the career fair - What you need to know about preparing and attending

By Maria Wanzek | February 21, 2023 3:45pm
Graphic courtesy of the UP Career Education Center

Update: Due to the recent weather, the Job and Internship Fair is being tentatively rescheduled to March 31.

Life post-graduation is something that sneaks up on all UP students. It’s that time of year when students are frantically scrambling for internships and job opportunities whether it be for the summer or as a long-term career.  

Luckily for UP, the Career Education Center is hosting their first Internship & Job Fair since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic this Friday, Feb. 24. Over 65 employers are planned to attend the event in the Chiles Center from 1 to 4 p.m. and will be open for UP students of all years. 

The Job and Internship Fair is aimed at providing students with opportunities who are searching for summer internships or want to learn about more career paths.

Amy Cavanaugh, the director of the Career Education Center, is excited to host the Job and Internship fair in person and for students to have the opportunity to build their professional networks. 

“It makes a significant difference to actually know somebody that works at the company,” Cavanaugh said. “Relationships matter, connections matter.” 

The thought of attending a career fair, especially if it’s your first time, can be overwhelming. However, the Career Center has developed resources for students planning to attend. 

“Preparing is important,” Cavanagh said. “If you're nervous, come to the one o'clock tour and then decide if you're comfortable actually going and talking to employers.”

Tours are offered for students who might want to feel out the atmosphere of the fair before jumping into conversation with employers. They can also provide an opportunity for first or second year students looking to gain familiarity with the setting of a career fair. 

The tours take place in the Chiles Center during the fair. There will be five tours led by Career Center staff members. Each tour lasts about 30 minutes, with the first one beginning at 1 p.m. 

The Career Center hosted several Internship and Job Fair preparation workshops leading up to the event. There are 4 upcoming sessions: Wednesday, Feb. 22, 1:30 to 2 p.m. and 4 to 4:30 p.m. as well as Thursday, Feb. 23, 1 to 1:30 p.m. and 4 – 4:30 pm. Any students are welcome to attend and registration can be found on Handshake

After attending one of the workshops, The Beacon outlines how best to prepare for the upcoming Internship & Job Fair. 

How to Guide: Internship & Job Fair

Ideally, you should know the companies who are attending the fair before even stepping foot in the Chiles Center. 

You can find a complete list of employers who’ll be in attendance on Handshake. Clicking on the name of each employer will tell you about what their company does, any open positions, and the names of other UP students or alumni who have worked there. 

“It would be really, really wise for students to look at [Handshake] before they actually come to the career fair.” Cavanaugh said. “It's not ideal to walk up to an employer and ask them what their company does.”

Cavanaugh suggests students prioritize research for the companies they are most interested in, but to be careful not to overlook those who don’t directly match up with their  major or interests.

Students engage in interview prep at a Career Center workshop in 2018. Five years later, UP is hosting it's first Job and Internship Fair since the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
by Molly Lowney / The Beacon

“There's a variety of employers coming,” Cavanaugh said. “All of these companies also have roles outside of what they do. I would absolutely encourage students to talk to all of these employers, because they all have a whole lot of different departments.” 

After doing some research on the companies coming to the fair, brainstorm questions that you want to ask employers. Writing these questions down will allow you to carry them with you as you move through the fair. 

By thinking through your questions ahead of time, you will be able to get the information you want out of your interactions. 

The conversations you’ll be having with employers will be short, around two to three minutes each. Make it count by staying engaged and making eye contact with the people you’re meeting. 

Although you won’t be talking to any one employer for very long, you will be chatting with a lot of different people and this can be overwhelming. Be sure to take breaks when needed, so that you can be on top of your game. There will be a student lounge set up in Chiles, where you can go for this very reason. 

An updated and professional resume is recommended, and the Career Center offers extended Drop-In hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for a 15 minute resume review during the week leading up to the Internship & Job Fair. 

The last thing to prepare is your introduction, also known as the elevator pitch. You should craft your introduction and practice it ahead of time. You want to have a clear idea of what you are going to say. 

The Career Center suggests following a who, what, why, goal and question format. You should say your major, any work experience you have, what you’re interested in and why. Talk about your areas of strength, things that you are passionate about, and any future goals. 

Wrap up your introduction with a question for the employer. This is a great time to pull from the list of questions you wrote down earlier.

How you end your conversations is just as important as how you start them. End with a transition question, such as ‘can I get a business card?’ Or ‘how can I stay in touch with you?’ 

By asking them to connect, you are signaling the end of the conversation, and also gathering valuable information to maintain a personal connection to the company. This will be helpful if you are planning on applying to positions, and don’t forget to say thank you.

The event itself brings up very important questions of what to wear, what to bring, what not to bring, and what to expect. 

The dress code is business casual, which you can find examples of online. One tip from career center staff is not to wear anything too flashy and to skip the excessive perfume and cologne. 

On the day of the Job Fair, be sure to bring extra paper and a pen, so that you can take notes and carry a few copies of your resume in case an employer is interested in collecting one. 

Leave the backpack behind and consider bringing a folder to carry papers and resumes, which will keep things organized and provide a hard surface to take notes on. 

Follow up with your new connections in the days following the event, and you can begin applying to job and internship positions you learned about by attending the fair. 

Maria Wanzek is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at