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Davis, California

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Column: Career fairs

Despite the recent recession and gloomy job market, UC Davis has had no problem attracting employers to recruit students on campus. The various internship and career fairs throughout the year continue to maintain record employer turnout. Luckily for those of you graduating or looking for summer internships, the Spring Fair will be held in the ARC Pavilion tomorrow.

Donovan Davis is a recruiter for Enterprise and attends a fair every quarter to recruit for internship and career positions.

“It’s a great opportunity to learn about students and for them to learn about what we do,” Davis said. He recruits at UC Davis career fairs because many leaders in Enterprise’s Sacramento branch are Davis alumni. “We definitely want to keep that pipeline open and keep offering opportunities for students to join us.”

With hundreds of employers and thousands of students in attendance, the career fair can be intimidating. Everyone is in their best business attire, schmoozing with company representatives and lining up at popular tables for a turn to make a good impression in 60 seconds or less. When I attended my first fair as a first-year, I felt self-conscious in a wrinkled button-down shirt (I didn’t have an iron in the dorms), stumbled in uncomfortable shoes and was overwhelmed by the milling crowds.  

Still, the career fair is a fantastic event to learn about the different companies recruiting and find out what opportunities are out there.

Theresa Martinez, who graduated last June, was unsure of what to do with her degree in international relations and decided to attend a career fair to research her options. She ended up talking with a friendly representative from Liberty Mutual who asked for her resume. Although the thought of working in insurance hadn’t even crossed her mind before the fair, Martinez approached it with an open mind and secured a job, months before graduation.

And remember that it isn’t just for graduating seniors; each fair offers lots of internship opportunities as well.

Daniela Munoz, a junior chemical engineering major, found her summer internship with Air Liquide from talking to a HR rep at the fair held last quarter.

“After the fair and the info session, I sent a follow-up e-mail and constantly tried to keep in touch via e-mail,” said Munoz. “It was a lot of following through but it paid off!”

After making the connection and a good impression in person, a thank you note and a cover letter reinforcing your interest in the position can go a long way.

In addition to following up, preparation is absolutely essential to make most of the fair. The Internship & Career Center’s website offers articles and a virtual “webshop” to help students get ready for the fair. The list of attendees is posted online so take some time to identify and research your top companies. This way, when you’re in front of the recruiter, you can impress them with your knowledge and informed questions instead of being just another student who walks by and says, “So what do you guys do?” Employers can tell when you’ve checked out their website and are serious about a position.

And don’t limit yourself to only big-name companies like Intel or Google. The perfect job or internship may be offered by the company at the next table.

Thanh Giang, who graduated fall quarter, attended one of the past fairs with a plan to check out as many companies as possible.

“I saw Schlumberger [an oil service company] and I just went up to talk to them,” he said.

The recruiter told him to go to their info session for a chance to interview for a job. Thanh ended up missing the info session but the recruiter still called him up for an interview.

“I guess I made a good impression at the career fair,” Thanh said.

Don’t expect to walk out of the ARC Pavilion with a job offer; that’s not what the fair is for. For Martinez, the phone call inviting her to interview didn’t come until a month after the fair. Treat it as an opportunity to network with company representatives and gather information about a specific position, company or industry. At the very least, you can come out of the fair knowing you stepped out of your comfort zone and got some experience in the job search process and learned to communicate professionally with recruiters. You deserve a pat on the back for that. 

JENNIFER KIM wants to hear about your career fair experience. Send your stories to jsnkim@ucdavis.edu. Good luck on Thursday!

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