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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Opinion: Career fairs are for underclassmen too

As a freshman, landing internships may be an endeavor for the future, a headache that doesn’t need to be worried about until I’m an upperclassman. But after deciding to visit the recent STEM career fair, I realized that now was a perfect time to dip a toe in the professional world.
An internship, temporary employment by a company designed to give professional experience, is a gateway to a successful career. These entry jobs are opportunities that can build technical skills, forge professional connections and generate income.
While not every company pays its interns $8,000 a month, like Facebook, the average hourly wage for paid interns is $20.76. The money continues to flow toward internships since, according to Zippia, college interns are 15% less likely than peers to be unemployed following graduation, with 70% of all interns being offered positions at their company.
Despite the professional advantages of internships, many first and second-year students only bother applying because of the common sentiment that internships are for juniors and seniors. Admittedly, companies look for candidates with more extensive background knowledge, but many positions are open to underclassmen with ambition. In addition, some employers like NASA and Microsoft offer internships exclusive to freshmen and sophomores.
Although students receive internships in the summer before their last academic year, freshman year is the opportune time to practice courting an internship with low stakes, and there’s no better place to do this than a career fair.
A career fair is like exposure therapy for those with interview anxiety. At Texas State fairs, upwards of 100 companies can be lining the walls and interior of the LBJ Ballroom, looking to talk to prospective hires. As a freshman, the best thing to do is talk to as many companies as possible.
According to Forbes, you only have seven seconds to make a solid first impression, so you’ll want some practice behind you before you approach a company you’re interested in. Luckily, Texas State career fairs host various companies to talk to. For example, the recent STEM fair included companies from local consultants and contractors to big-name incorporations like Tesla and Niagara Bottling. There were even government agencies like the Harris County Engineering Department and the Navy.
Underclassmen hesitate to approach companies because they fear they will be treated poorly or ridiculed because of their lack of experience. In my experience, this was far from the truth. The recruiters all seemed patient and empathetic, willing to talk and advise candidates that, in some cases, they knew their company would not hire them. These people are not in the business of punishing the underqualified.
In addition to finding a job and honing interview skills, a career fair is a great place to gain knowledge about your field. Surrounding you are hundreds of professionals that have real work experience. Better than any class or video, these people can give you a first-person account of life after graduation.
Energized by my experience at the STEM career fair, I returned for the construction and concrete industries fair the following week. Despite being a mechanical engineering major, I learned just as much from the second expo, even securing a couple of leads for internships this summer. But, again, be bold and attend a career fair not directly related to your major, as many companies want interns from various fields of study.
Engaging in a career fair is an excellent way for first- and second-year students to get a feel for the professional world. Of course, the best way to benefit from the expo is to attend and learn from them yourself, but there are some essential tips that I would have appreciated before I went to my first one. Most importantly, ensure you have printed resumes; every company will ask for one, and you will want to show up prepared. Secondly, dress for a casual business code. Jeans, which is what I wore my first time, are generally discouraged.
The next time Texas State hosts a career fair, check it out. Students can find dates for these events on the Texas State Career Services website. As an underclassman, there is nothing to lose by attending a career fair; only valuable experience to gain.
-Reece Cavallo is a mechanical engineering freshman
The University Star welcomes Letters to the Editor from its readers. All submissions are reviewed and considered by the Editor-in-Chief and Opinion Editor for publication. Not all letters are guaranteed for publication.

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