By John Lobdell
The Industry/Career Expo is one of the most publicized events on campus. Starting from the time you arrive in early fall, you are constantly reminded of it through e-mail, posters, teachers, and even certain organizations. And for good reason–some of the top aerospace companies in the world attend, looking for students to hire as interns or full-time employees. It’s an amazing opportunity–but one that is highly competitive, as hundreds of students are contending for the same positions. It’s really quite frightening to think about the odds of actually obtaining one of these positions; because of this, many students–especially freshmen–feel as though it’s pointless to even try. I was one of those freshmen for a while.
It didn’t take long from the time I arrived on campus to realize how big of an event the Expo was going to be, from all the advertising. Fairly early on, I knew that I wanted to attend, but actually getting an interview–much less a position–with one of these companies was far from my mind. I was a freshman after all, and freshmen don’t get internships. The idea of getting an internship for the summer after my freshman year didn’t even cross my mind until I actually met an upperclassman who had gotten one his freshman year. At first it was just a small thought; I figured it would be a great experience to get an internship my freshman year, but I also thought it highly unfeasible. Then I met several more upperclassman who had gotten internships their freshmen years, and I started to think that maybe it was possible.
At that point, the idea really started to sink in. Rather than just a thought, it became a goal. I realized how unfeasible it was, but I was determined to at least try. That way, even if I failed, I would still have a much better idea of what I needed to do for next year. But I really didn’t know what to expect at the Expo, and had no idea how I should prepare. I decided that the best thing would be to go to one of the Expo preparation sessions, hoping that it would give me at least an idea of what to expect. Little did I realize just how helpful one of these sessions would be. They went over everything from what to expect from the recruiters, to how to format your resume, to what to wear, and everything in between. By the time the Expo came, I had gone to several of the different sessions and was feeling quite prepared. And then, after weeks of waiting and preparation, it was time for the Industry/Career Expo.
On the day of the Expo, I was feeling quite confident. My resume had been polished several times over, I had a nice suit that looked professional, I knew exactly who I wanted to talk to, and I had a general idea what to expect from them. I arrived at the ICI Center, walked in, and suddenly… lost all confidence. How could I honestly have thought that I could get an internship? I hadn’t built up my resume nearly enough to be competitive. I began walking around, eying out the different companies. Finally, I got up the courage to go up to one. Figuring that I was ready, I decided to go to one of the companies that I had researched before the Expo. I got in line and waited until it was finally my turn to talk to one of the recruiters. I walked up, shook his hand, handed him my resume, and got so nervous I couldn’t remember what I was going to say. I mumbled and stuttered every time he asked me a question and am fairly sure that my words were not completely coherent. It was a disaster.
I felt pretty unconfident after I finished talking to that first recruiter. I lost all hope of getting an internship. I was just too nervous to be able to accurately display myself to recruiters. So I decided to just go to various companies and practice talking with them. I went to several companies, but although I was slowly growing more used to talking to the recruiters, I was still nervous, and it was obvious. Soon it came time for me to leave for my first class, so I decided that I would visit one more booth before I left. I had noticed General Electric‘s booth earlier in the day and decided that I would talk to them. As I began walking to the booth, I started to think about some advice that a friend of mine had given me before the Expo. “Be yourself,” he said. So I decided to go up and talk to the recruiter not as a recruiter, but as a friend…someone I knew. When I got to the booth, I walked up to the recruiter and just had a normal conversation with him. By treating him as a friend, I was able to dispel the nervousness. He asked me a few questions about my resume, and at the end, he pointed to the top of my resume where my phone number was, and asked, “Is this where we can reach you?”
Later that day, I got a phone call asking if I could come in for an interview the following afternoon. I, of course, accepted. That night, I did as much research on GE as I could in order to prepare for the interview. I wanted to know exactly what to expect. Going into the interview the next day, I was prepared with not only as much information as possible, but also the same mindset that I had when I had talked to the recruiter the previous day. Treating the interviewer as just another person that I can have a normal conversation with helped once again calm my nerves and allow me to accurately represent myself. The interview went well, and I left feeling quite confident. And about a week later, I got the e-mail offering me a summer internship with GE.
It is not impossible for a freshman to get an internship, as I can attest to. If you want one, you will be able to get one; you just need to put in the effort. Many freshmen feel that they don’t have enough experience to get an internship, but the truth of the matter is that companies that hire freshmen interns realize that they won’t have experience. What these companies are looking for is not a vast amount of experience, but passion…passion about what you do and about what they do. And they are also looking for people who can just be themselves. So when you talk to either a recruiter or interviewer, just be yourself, and show off all of your skills and talents. Find a way to weave in what you’re passionate about, in particular if it has to do with the job position. When all you have to go with is a resume, it’s a little more difficult, but the same concept applies. Get involved with clubs and activities that correspond to your major or your desired career. Not only will these things provide invaluable experience, if you are truly passionate about your major, they will also be enjoyable. And having them on your resume will show that passion.
Finally, one of the keys to getting an internship is being prepared. Do your research on whatever companies you may be interested in. And take advantage of Career Services and all that it offers. The sessions on what to expect at the Expo were invaluable to me; I doubt I would have gotten the internship had I not gone to them. They tell you exactly what to expect, and they give you many useful tips to help you get an interview. Make sure your resume has been polished several times over as well; a poorly formatted resume can give a bad impression to recruiters and may keep you from getting the opportunity to express yourself more fully through an interview. I encourage everyone, especially freshmen, to aim for an internship because as long as you are willing to put in the effort, there is nothing stopping you from obtaining one.