Two years ago, I attended the architecture and interior design career fair at Oklahoma State as a student with big ideas about the kind of firm I would land at upon graduation. It was a snowy and cold Tuesday and I braved an icy walk in heels to the Architecture Building. With my own business cards and resume in hand, I walked in on a mission to find a summer internship with a great firm. Not only did I land the internship, the position led to a job offer that started right after graduation. Here’s what I know now.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to stand on the other side of the table at the same career fair. I’m always excited to represent KSQ, but this time it was an extra special event for me. I was excited to share with students how much I could relate to their nerves and worries about the future.
I remember thinking, “What if I never get an internship and then never get a job?” While that may sound silly to seasoned professionals, I think it’s one that crosses most students’ minds more than once in college. After recently graduating and working in the real world for almost a year, I offer my top six tips for attending career fairs and/or job interviews.
1. Really learn those computer programs! If I knew how important this was I would have been watching tutorials in all my spare time. The big ones are Revit , Sketch Up and the Adobe Suite programs. Auto Cad and basic computer skills are, of course, a must as well.
2. Do sweat the small stuff. By this I mean details, spelling, timing. It’s important to make sure that whatever you leave behind (resume or first impression) is the best it can be.
3. Pick your top three work requirements and use those to rank the firms you spoke with. For me it was 1) office culture, 2) type of work and 3) location. It’s important you be interested in the firm you may intern/work for. If you have some idea of what you are looking for it will help you prepare before the fair. Usually career fairs will post the attendees and you can look ahead at the booths you really want to hit. After you visit with your top firms, you can go and meet the others. It’s important to be prepared with some questions or key points to talk about with each firm.
4. Follow up. Always. I can tell you I have received most of my jobs because I simply called or emailed.
5. Brand yourself! Be unique – everyone sees those classic black and white resumes. Make it interesting. Bold the important stuff, have a logo, add a portfolio teaser, add some color. This doesn’t mean go crazy, but do brand yourself. Not only is it a way to stand out but it shows that you are creative.
6. Make your portfolio a conversation piece. I had two portfolios: one for in-person interviews and one digital portfolio to send to out-of-state firms. In my portfolio for personal interviews, I had only the important pieces of information listed. This way I could communicate any additional information myself and explain my process and inspiration.
Great firms are out there, and they are looking for the top talent coming out of the best schools. I was fortunate to have found my place at KSQ–and even more so to help recruit new grads who have the same anxieties and hopes that I did.
“KSQ Careers” – Includes job openings, upcoming career fairs we’ll be attending and more.