1. Show up on time
In order to talk to more recruiters and explore all of the wonderful options that are out there at the internship fair, give yourself as much time as possible to explore. Show up to the event on the earlier side so that you can browse, mingle and network without feeling threatened by time constraints. You’d hate to have a fantastic conversation trimmed down to a mediocre one due to time pressures.
2. Dress appropriately
There are a wide range of options available to students, ranging from business casual to business formal. Anything from a nice polo to a classic button-down is a solid choice. Bright colors can be a risky move — will the outfit showcase your personality or just shock people?
3. Bring a resume
Recruiters will want to see a resume so that they can look at your GPA, work history and extracurriculars. In fact, bring at least 10 copies of your resume — just in case you drop one down the drain. Maximize your internship chances by distributing them to as many companies.
4. Introduce yourself
It is of the utmost importance to introduce yourself at the beginning of every conversation. Shake the recruiter’s hand, state your name and feel free to sprinkle in your major, interest in the company and so-on. If you know the recruiter, you can probably get away with a quick hug, but anything beyond that is pushing it, particularly in a formal context.
5. Remember your own name
This is a true story. Once, I was at a blind date function with my friend and his roommate, Frank. After gathering up our courage and going over all of our best conversation starters, we approached a table of gorgeous women, ready to give it our best shot. As we sat down, these words left Frank’s mouth — “Hi, I’m Frack.” The conversation was immediately dismantled. The evening was unrepairable and ruined. I can only imagine how bad it would have been if this had happened at an internship fair.
6. Don’t bring in food
Try to eat a hearty meal either before the internship fair or plan on going out to eat afterwards. Recruiters tend to frown heavily upon people bringing in food items from the outside, as eating during a recruiter’s pitch can be seen as a sign of disrespect or disinterest. You should try to remain present — both physically and emotionally — during your conversations.
7. Don’t bring in pets
When I said “don’t bring in any food,” you were probably like, “Oh, that’s alright because I can still bring in my pets.” Well, if that was you, than you were actually quite wrong. Whatever you do, don’t bring in your pets — unless it’s a service animal. This is a move that actually has very little upside.
8. Converse with the recruiters
A classic rookie mistake that people make at internship fairs is being too afraid to engage with the recruiters. They are here to talk to people like you — engage with them. Too often, people simply shove their resumes onto the table without saying a single word to the recruiter, out of fear of being judged. This is actually a mistake, as it gives off an impression of arrogance and aloofness to the recruiter.
9. Be qualified for the position
While the other eight suggestions I’ve listed here are clearly all very important and all very objectively stated, I believe that this step is the most significant of them all. The best way to get an internship is to be qualified for the internship. Little known fact — recruiters come to internship fairs looking for qualified students to fill summer positions. If you are qualified, this is a great way to get a leg up on your competition.
10. Stay calm and know you’ll be okay
Above all, you need to know that not getting an internship this year isn’t the end of the world. The only real failure is the failure to show up and try. After all, what is one summer without an internship? Sure, the degree market is becoming oversaturated, and people with good grades in respected fields are having difficulty finding job offers because even entry level positions now have an insane amount of experience requirements. But you’ll be absolutely fine if you end up lifeguarding again for the summer. Absolutely fine. Loser.