Students gather in Little Bob at Spring Carere & Internship Fair

7 Expert Tips for Career Success

February 28, 2024 Written by Jessica Downey | Photo by Amanda Oldham

Did you speak with employers at our recent Spring Career & Internship Fair, but don’t know how to follow up? Missed the fair and need some tips on how to start networking? Wherever you’re starting in your career journey, the folks at the UD Career Center (UDCC) have some helpful advice to help you start your search, land a job or internship and how to look out for warning signs if an employer or opportunity isn’t right for you.

Attend a career fair or meetup

The UDCC hosts a full calendar of events, from two large semesterly fairs in the Little Bob to smaller specialized meetups, along with a number of employer information sessions on campus.

“As a person who has experienced and supported lots of job hunts over the course of my career, the process can feel like navigating a maze without a map,” said Rena’e Love, Associate Director of Employer Engagement and Integration. “I get it—not every opportunity will be a perfect fit. But we’re here to make it as painless as possible for students to connect with potential employers. Think of it as your shortcut to success.”

View the full list of Spring 2024 fairs and meetups on the UDCC website.

Perfect your elevator pitch

So, you’re planning on coming to a career fair or meetup to chat with employers. What do you say?

“An elevator pitch is a concise and effective way to spark interest into who you are and what you do or want to do, typically taking one to two minutes,” said Assistant Director of Internships and Career Experiences Brianna Warne. “The goal is to clearly and compellingly introduce yourself, highlight your skills and experiences and articulate your interests.”

Warne said that while “summing yourself up” in 60 seconds can be daunting, you want to set the stage for them to ask you questions.

“Don’t think of it as a personal speech. Start with the basics—especially if you’re feeling nervous—which means your name, what you’re studying and a closing statement that opens the door for further conversation,” said Warne. “Confidence is key when speaking with anyone, so lean into your authentic self and the amazing things you’ve accomplished, big or small.”

According to Warne, the only way to perfect a pitch is practice. Find guidelines to get you started in the “Crafting Your Elevator Pitch” on the UDCC Canvas site.

“To me, the best pitches are the ones that are practiced and thus flow with a natural cadence from the speaker,” she said. “Practice, practice and practice some more. Record yourself on Zoom, pitch in front of the mirror and rehearse with trusted friends. It’s worth your time.”

Follow up after an event

Stay top of mind for any employers you speak to at career events by sending a note after to remind them of your interest and include a brief “thank you.”

“Make sure to send a thank-you email to employers you spoke with and express your interest and gratitude for their time,” said Love.

If you need a refresher on employers who attended the Spring Career & Internship Fair, utilize the new “hire from our school” collection feature on Handshake and see the attending employers who have active job and internship postings.

“We’ve made it even easier for you this year,” said Love. “You can spot those employers who were at the fair and are still on the lookout for talent. This can help you explore additional opportunities aligned with your interests and goals.”

Research employers before connecting

To build meaningful connections, you should spend time researching any employers you’re interested in and learn basic facts about them. Don’t ask them questions that you can easily Google on your own.

“A little research can go a long way to make a great impression,” said Sarah Paal, Assistant Director of Academic and Career Integration. “There is a lot of information already available in Handshake postings and on employers’ websites. An example of a question to avoid is, ‘Do you offer internships?’ when the employer is actively posting internships on Handshake or has that information on their site.”

Use that research to stand out from the crowd and show that you put in time and effort to get to know more about them.

“Try to include one specific thing in your outreach that makes you unique—remind them of your conversation at the career fair, or make a connection between a skill or project from your class that an employer is seeking in an internship.”

Paal points to pages 14 and 15 in the “Career Events and Experiences” module in the UDCC Canvas for more information on how to best research employers.

Use LinkedIn to build your network

You might have heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” When it comes to making professional connections, networking is so important and LinkedIn is the quickest avenue.

“I would say the easiest way to continue building your network would be to make sure your LinkedIn profile is in good shape—and create one now if you don’t have one,” said Associate Director of Career Access and Equity Adam Helgeson. “Start using its search tool to find employers you’ve met at our fairs, contacts at companies you’re interested in and general contacts in your industry of interest.”

Helgeson points to the UDCC Canvas module “Communicate Your Experience in Writing/Online” for more guidance with how to create an exemplary profile, and the “Meet Your Network” module to practice conversation mapping and building a script for yourself. Helgeson also recommends drawing on things you have in common, especially if the person is a former Blue Hen.

“If you’re not sure where to start with your conversation, check and see if your connection is an alum,” he said. “If so, you can ask them their favorite Main Street restaurant or where their favorite study spot was on campus. If they didn’t go to UD, look for a skill in their LinkedIn profile that interests you and ask about it as an easy starting point.”

No matter how you choose to reach out, it’s important to remind yourself that networking benefits everyone and you have to start somewhere.

“It can be really intimidating to reach out to professionals when you’re just getting your start in the field,” said Helgeson. “Remember, these connections were once in your shoes and they’re people just like you. And don’t worry about folks being able to see that you looked at their LinkedIn profile—that’s what it’s there for! No one will find it odd that you stumbled upon them, and we all have LinkedIn to connect with more people and broaden our networks.”

Impress in your interview

If you applied for a job or internship and secured an interview, congratulations! As with most of these tips, research should always come first.

“One of the best pieces of advice I could offer about interview preparation is to do research on the company well in advance,” said Schentel Jones, Assistant Director of Career Access and Equity. “There’s nothing more appealing to a recruiter than to know that you are a candidate who took the time and effort to learn about their company and to fully understand the role they’re applying for.”

Jones recommended preparing answers for a few common questions so you won’t be caught off guard during the interview.

“Be prepared to talk about yourself, tell a time when you led an initiative or task and describe why you’re a good fit for the position,” said Jones. “All of these prompts will allow you to share more about your prior experience, leadership skills and ability to effectively apply what you have learned to the role.”

An interview isn’t just a time for you to answer questions, but to ask your own. Jones recommended five good questions to ask employers to indicate your interest and show your commitment to the opportunity, which are:

  • How would you describe the culture of the company?
  • What are you looking for in an ideal candidate?
  • What are the most important milestones the ideal candidate should look to achieve in their first year on the job?
  • What does success look like for this role, department or organization?
  • What challenges are you looking to solve and how can the ideal candidate support these efforts?

These questions work for all types of interviews, but Jones has extra tips for the Zoom interview format now that remote and hybrid opportunities are becoming more common.

“If interviewing virtually, ensure that you’re in a quiet space, make sure your Wi-Fi connection is strong and find comfortable seating,” she said. “I recommend blurring your background or utilizing a non-distracting virtual background in the event that your background doesn’t support the interview setting.”

The “Introduction to Interviewing” page in the UDCC Canvas module “Communicate Your Experience Verbally” has more in-depth interview advice. But above all, just be yourself.

“Remember, an interview is an opportunity for you to display your very best skills and assets,” said Jones. “It’s your time to shine, so be bold, be confident, prepare in advance and remember to smile.”

Spot red flags and fraudulent employers

Unfortunately, not all employers are legitimate, and scammers are getting more creative.

Christine Motta, Assistant Director of Academic and Career Integration and instructor of Career Exploration and Experiential Learning, said to avoid opportunities that emphasize high pay—like earning $2,000 per week for undefined work—or employers missing basic information.

“Often if it sounds too good to be true, it is,” said Motta. “Students should be wary of unsolicited emails from unknown employers offering an internship or job, especially if the posting fails to describe job responsibilities and focuses on how much money you can make. Be attentive if the posting includes many spelling and grammatical errors or if it’s difficult to find an address, actual contact or company name.”

A common scam involves people masquerading as employees or hiring managers from real companies. While these are trickier to navigate, there are some telltale signs of frauds. No real employer will ever ask you for money or banking and account information before you begin the job.

“Be careful if the posting appears to be from a reputable, familiar company, but when you look closely, the domain in the contact’s email address does not match the company domain,” said Motta. “Another red flag could be if the position requires an initial investment, such as a payment by wire service. Or if the position initially appears as a traditional job, but upon further research, it sounds more like an independent contractor opportunity.”

Unlike other job boards, employers and positions in Handshake are first vetted through an approval process, and employers on this platform are specifically recruiting UD students. If you ever suspect you are dealing with a fraudulent employer, notify the UDCC and do not provide any personal information. Visit the employer and job posting disclaimer on the UDCC website for more information.

Additionally, even if an employer is “legit,” they might not be the right fit for you personally. You should look out for incompatible employers through research, during the interview process and networking with employees. If you suspect the employer isn’t right for you, it’s okay to walk away!

“Ask questions. You’re interviewing an employer just as much as they’re interviewing you,” said Motta. “Do you share the same values? What are others saying? Are there poor reviews of this employer? What are your first impressions? Is there excessive employee turnover? Ask good questions to other employees about what makes them stay at the organization.”

For even more information to help you on your career journey, log into your Canvas account and explore the UDCC modules.

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