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Three tips to make the most of the spring career fair

February 14, 2024 By Seth Kruger

Students packed the Kohl Center concourse during the fall Career and Internship Fair at the University of Wisconsin–Madison on Sept. 20, 2023. (Photo by Taylor Wolfram / UW–Madison) Photo: Taylor Wolfram

As the 2024 Spring All-Campus Career and Internship Fair is set to take place from 4 to 8 p.m. on Thursday at the Kohl Center, students across campus scramble to print resumes, iron a pair of pants and practice elevator pitches on their roommates. 

While it is certainly a stressful time of preparation, there are certain keys to success that every student should keep in mind — brought by both a fellow Badger and a recently graduated one.

Lauren Ciha, a December 2023 graduate of UW–Madison with degrees in computer science and philosophy, attended her fair share of career fairs and would like to provide Badgers with her top pieces of advice for a successful Career Fair experience. Alongside Lauren, Sydney Davis, a junior Global Health major at UW–Madison, has her own experiences to share from the last few days of preparation.

1. Do your research

There are an overwhelming number of employers at every fair, and sifting through the endless faces and tables can often be difficult in the high-pressure competitive atmosphere of the fair.

Therefore, knowing what to look for before opening the Kohl Center door will slim the stress down, allowing for clear-minded, less stressful interactions with the people most important to your career goals.

“Always have the companies ranked based on whatever you want so you can scope out which ones to visit in which order,” Lauren said. “You don’t want to end up in a situation where you want to see one company, but you get stuck in the line for a different one.”

“I am planning on preparing by searching through Handshake for companies [that will be] in attendance that are aligned with my career interests,” Sydney added.

Additionally, resume tailoring is a time-consuming — but essential — process in the preparation process for the fair. “Tailor by role. Remember your degree but also that you can do many types of jobs with it,” Lauren said.

2. Step one is being there

After conducting your research on companies, getting to the fair itself should be another appreciated piece of the experience.

Give yourself credit for making the effort for future success — even if an interview or position opportunity does not arrive right away.

“My biggest win at every career fair was just showing up. I often used the fairs as an opportunity to practice and learn,” Lauren said. 

“The fair is a great space for networking with companies you could see yourself working with long-term,” Sydney added.

3. Small wins are still wins

It can be nerve-racking to navigate the tables, even if you have your rankings set. But, keeping it all in perspective will help you understand the true value of each interaction, even if they do not end up in an interview offer or internship opportunity. 

“Connecting with professionals in my field of interest has greatly increased my awareness of positions that are available, and I am hoping to continue expanding my network,” Sydney said.

“It’s helpful to remember that the fair is as good as it can get for setting first impressions in any moments that you have, and you’re putting yourself out there with an opportunity for you to keep learning and building your skills,” Lauren said.

Plus, every opportunity to practice “soft skills” — the less technical, more life-applicable skills — with a prospective employer is extremely valuable, especially when they’re applicable to the company’s goals that you found in your research.

“Knowing the values of the company can help when you’re talking about the soft skills that you have, or when you’re thinking through interview questions like teamwork or problem-solving scenarios,” Lauren said.