By: Brittany Morgan
I’m a senior studying Computer Science, looking forward to graduate in Spring 2020! I’ve been working with Career Services as a Student Assistant and Student Ambassador for a little over a year now. I loved my conference experiences and took away a lot of great, important information from them. I’m looking forward to next year’s conferences already and highly recommend attending them!
What conferences have you been to, and what organizations are you affiliated with?
I’m a part of Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). Both of these are professional organizations that hold national conferences each year where there is a Career Fair, multiple career workshops, and a surplus of networking opportunities. I’ve been able to attend both of these organization’s national conferences and highly recommend both of them!
What did you do to effectively prepare for the conference(s)? Anything you would do differently?
Going into the conferences for the first time, I had been told that they could be very large and overwhelming. With this in mind, I wanted to be sure to prep as much as I could beforehand in order to keep my nerves to a minimum. Before the conference started, I registered on the organization’s website, checked out the employers who would be attending, printed out two copies of the schedule, and downloaded the national conference app (this was really helpful!). After attending these conferences, I can honestly say that making a game plan of what companies I wanted to talk to and what workshops I wanted to attend was the smartest thing I did going into it. There are so many things going on and so many people in attendance that it can be easy to miss things, but making a flexible plan of the day helps immensely.
Some things I would do differently looking back would be to pack a small snack and a small water bottle. Most of the time, events are back to back and interviews could be scheduled on the spot, so it’s important to have a little snack to make sure that hunger doesn’t strike at the worst time possible. Also, if you’re attending a conference for the first time, it doesn’t hurt to try to walk around the Career Fair with a friend first to get some of the jitters out and to have that friend with you so you can help motivate each other if either of you gets too intimidated at times.
Elevator speeches are quintessential in these settings. What is important to remember when giving an elevator speech in a big conference environment?
One thing to remember is that there are going to be thousands of people that each recruiter speaks with that day, so be authentic to yourself. Each person standing in line with you is going to say that they want an internship too, so make sure you portray to the recruiter not only why you are qualified for the position but why you would be a great asset to the company as an employee. Try to make a connection between yourself and the company that you could talk about. If you can’t think of anything to highlight specifically, enthusiasm and a positive attitude are always something that employers look for as well.
What surprised you most about the conference experience?
The amount of on the spot interviews and internships given out. At smaller conferences, it is a lot more competitive to get an interview with a company. At these national conferences, employers come already knowing how many internships they can hand out that day. At my first conference, I was standing in line for the restroom and the woman next to me started a conversation. By the time the line ended, she asked me if I wanted an interview. At my second conference, I walked up to a company and started talking with them about what they did. Two hours later, I was out of an interview with them with a summer internship offer.
These kinds of opportunities were not uncommon with the other attendees I went with. Freshman and students with GPAs they felt like would not qualify them for an internship were able to interview and receive offers as well.
As a Student Ambassador, why do you think it is important for young professionals to take advantage of these types of opportunities?
Obtaining a job/internship these days is a very competitive process. Applying online means that our resumes will get lost in a pile of a thousand other resumes that look just like ours. These conferences are a way to get around that automated process and meet face-to-face with an employer and have a real chance to pitch yourself. I think it’s important to take advantages of these conferences because of all the opportunities they hold, especially with some big employers (Google, Microsoft, Boeing) that most people don’t see at local conferences. Majority of the people I know with internships now have obtained them from national conferences like these.