This post was contributed by Genevieve Becker ’15. Genevieve is beginning her final semester as a Senior double major in Gender Studies and Hispanic Studies. While she will never forget her first job at a hot dog stand, her collegiate career experience includes interning for several Charlotte-area magazine publications, interning for former U.S. Senator Kay R. Hagan in Washington, DC, and interning at a market-research firm in Washington, DC. On campus, she has been involved in Student Government, Davidson College Chorale, Students Consulting for Non-Profit Organizations, the tour guide program, and the Office of Alumni Relations. When she graduates, she plans to begin a career in consulting or market research. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Welcome and welcome back, Wildcats! I hope everyone’s summer didn’t fly by as quickly as mine did. As I enter my senior year, I hope I have a few bits of wisdom to impart regarding internship and career searching. For the incoming freshmen reading this, first of all, kudos to you for looking ahead to your professional career, and for my fellow seniors, deep breaths, the job search can’t be that bad…right(?)
The Center for Career Development asked me to share some thoughts about the information sessions hosted by the office. If you’re new to the term, an information session is usually a one-ish hour presentation by an employer or organization right here on campus. They are usually held in advance of job or internship deadlines. You can view the calendar for information sessions on WildcatLink.
What are the benefits of attending information sessions?
Like many, I was skeptical at first of the true benefit of attending an information session on a position that I thought I already knew everything about. Even if you think you already know every objective detail about a company or a position, you WILL learn something new. Maybe you will learn something about the company structure that you can work into the classic interview question, “And why do you want to work for Company X?”
Information sessions are also useful for gleaning subjective information on a company. Talking to employees and session hosts before or after the event often proves most valuable for me. If you’re not the best “mingler,” try arriving to the information session a little bit early and introducing yourself then, instead of waiting until after the formal presentation. Asking employees questions about their personal experience or for advice is mutually beneficial. That is, you will learn something about the company and an employee will put a face to a name, or perhaps, even learn something about you. These conversations often prompt employees to share professional anecdotes, which personally, reminds me that my prospective employers are human, too. This takes some edge off when hitting “submit” on an application or in the preparation stages for an interview.
What could the value be for younger students that are not necessarily ready to start applying for internships/jobs?
First and foremost, I recommend that younger students approach these information sessions because you’re excited about your career (yes, really) and not out of obligation. I saw searching for an internship as a necessary evil the Spring of my sophomore year. The previous summer I had studied abroad with Davidson in Cadiz and lamented how the rest of my summers would be dedicated to my career. I wish I hadn’t approached my professional life so begrudgingly at first. Now, in the thick of networking and information session season, I am excited and energized by a career. It can be fun to attend an information session and imagine your life at Company X or Company Y. It can be fun to tell a potential employer about your accomplishments. If I had known this earlier, I think I would have taken more advantage of the Career Development hosted events as a younger student.
“Even if you think you already know every objective detail about a company or a position, you WILL learn something new.”
How do you prepare for attending an information session?
Read up on the company before you go. I don’t mean on your way there on your phone while you’re hurrying over from a Commons dinner. Take half an hour to use the Google (not kidding) and read about the company. Obviously it’s okay if you don’t know everything there is to know about the company prior to going, but knowing that Company X is an investment banking firm and not a television production company is generally good before attending. Also, prepare some questions and make sure they’re questions that cannot be answered during your thirty minutes of Googling. I recommend asking personal experience questions, as those usually produce the most unique (and memorable) responses. Finally, if you’re feeling really ambitious or you’re particularly interested in a certain company, take the time to research and reach out to alumni who work or have worked at the company. Showing the company that you’ve invested in them is strong motivation for them to invest in you.
Oh, and one last thing– check the dress code for the information session before you show up in jeans. Not to beat a dead horse, but it’s always safer to overdress. Your outfit should be put together and tasteful, but also individualized. For me, this is a statement necklace, but for one of my fellow seniors, it’s his signature Texas cowboy boots (you know who you are if you’ve read this far).
How do you follow-up?
Before you leave the session, make sure that you get the contact information for the people that you spoke to. Asking for a card or an email address is not as awkward as you think it is, and well worth your time. One to two days after the event, shoot your contact an email thanking them for taking the time to answer your questions. A small email can go a long way. For those who are so inclined, writing a handwritten thank you note is an extra special way to be remembered. While it may take a little longer, I think this 48 cent investment is quite impressionable well worth your time if you’re really interested in a career with said company.