Sunday, June 21, 2015

It's Career Fair Week!

Since the summer career fair was held this past week, I thought it would be fitting to write about externship and the career fair, and everything that comes with it. First of all, if you are not aware of what our externships are, it is a requirement of everyone attending the CIA, unless you are part of the ACE program. Externship is working in the “real-world,” for either fifteen consecutive weeks, or six hundred and sixty hours. This is completed between your first and second years of school, so I will be completing mine between August and January. Receiving an externship is like receiving a job; this involves networking, applying, getting hired, and signing contracts. The school has thousands of approved externship sites to choose from, or you can request a site to be approved for you to complete your externship. I am so happy to say that I will be completing my externship at Walt Disney World Resorts in Orlando, Florida! Choosing an extern site and approaching the process made me a little nervous, but don’t worry, the process makes everyone nervous, but everyone does it, and there are always people here to help you! Below is what to expect from the process, so hopefully these help.
1)   For career fair, the Student Commons and the gym is filled with recruiters of different companies. If you have a smile on your face, even if you make eye contact while walking down the aisles, the recruiters will come to you. They are there because they want to hire CIA students, they are eager to talk to you, so be prepared and eager to talk to them.
2)   While talking to them, schedule an interview, get their business card, hand out a resume, there are usually pens or some type of “free-bee” laying on the table; take anything and everything you can. Remember, they are there for you, they want you; be humble, but take advantage of that.
3)   After talking to the recruiter for a while, an interview opportunity might come up, take it. Career fairs are Tuesdays, then the next day you come back and have your interview; most interviews are the next day (Wednesdays), so this gives you a day to prepare for it in any way you feel necessary. Sometimes though, an interview will happen on the first day, which is what happened with me. The interview times they had for Wednesday did not fit with my class schedule, so they offered to do it on the spot. If this happens to you, take it.
4)   Every interview I had was different. One interview was all knowledge-based on recipes and kitchen practices, one interview was all customer service and past work experience lessons, and one interview was a little of both. Be prepared for any type of interview.

  The two photos pictured below is what the gym looks like on Day 1 of career fair. These are students networking with recruiters that came to the CIA.

Here are some lessons I learned along the way through the process:
1)   Research early. You don’t necessarily have to look up externship sites the night you move into school, but don’t wait until the day before career fair to figure out which recruiters you would like to speak with. Know which sites you would like to apply for, and why. Some offer housing, some pay, consider the location, and opportunities after graduation just to name a few aspects to consider. Pick sites that work for you, and what you are looking for. This is YOUR externship, so make the experience what you want it to be.
2)   Do not wait until the night before to finish your resume, references, and cover letters. This causes you to be frazzled and can lead to errors that would otherwise make your materials strong. Take these documents to Career Services. They know what foodservice recruiters are looking for and what they want. Besides, it is always a good idea to get a professional second opinion, it is their job, they want to help you and see their students succeed. I also advise ordering business cards, you can order those through our career services website. I handed a recruiter my business card along with the usual resume, references, and cover letter; they were SO impressed with the business cards, and it was just enough to make me stand out just enough for them to remember me, after talking to many students that day.
3)   Prepare a “30-second commercial” about yourself, so you don’t appear totally clueless when you approach a recruiter. For example, mine was “Hello, my name is Rebecca Rodriguez. I am a first year baking and pastry student actively seeking an externship between the months of August and January. I am very interested in your company and would love to learn more about the opportunities you have to offer.” Shake their hand, make eye contact, and don’t forget, they are there because they want to hire you; be confident in your abilities and the education you are receiving.
4)   Once you make it though Career Fair Day 1, and got an interview or two, congratulations, you are ready for Day 2! As stated earlier, there are many types of interviews, some all kitchen knowledge based, some all customer service based, and some both, all three of which I experienced. What I gathered from all three is to have a few pieces of knowledge prepared. Be able to describe how to make a dish/dessert. Between all my interviews, I had to describe how to make a genoise sponge and chocolate mousse. I also realized that recruiters want to hear about past work experiences and this always leads the question of “Tell me about a past work experience where you had to figure out a problem.” The problem is not what they care about, they care about what you learned, and how you will apply it for the future. ALWAYS state what you learned, that is what they are looking for.

Hopefully some of these helped, this is what I got out of this experience. The Career Fair was a really interesting event, giving all of us students a chance to meet with employers, and just to get our name and resume out there, and possibly in the hands of our next boss. Be confident, and happy searching!

 Above is a picture of what the gym looks like on Day 2 of Career Fair day. When you schedule an interview, you will receive a time slot and table number, and your interview will be with that corresponding table. I know it looks kind of intimidating, but once you are there, it's not that bad as it might seem. Just keep that smile on your face!

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