I mentioned in a previous blog that I was accepted into USC as a Biology major, and decided to make the change to Biomedical Engineering before my first semester. Well, being Pre-engineering for a year, a still-learning freshman, and a first semester sophomore, I did not attend any career events, expos, workshops, anything!
The world of job/internship finding was incredibly new to me. However, it is a world that almost all Viterbi students will have to enter and explore. Thankfully, Viterbi offers many opportunities for students to find internships/jobs and best of all (especially to people new to that world like me) many resources to get students ready.
The reason I decided to go to the Career Expo this semester (and I am very glad that I did) was because of my BME 201 class, Biomedical Engineering Practice — which I highly recommend for all Biomedical Engineering freshman! The class brings in guest lecturers to teach students about the many career options available to Biomedical Engineers, and gives students tips on important skills such as writing resumes or networking. One of the assignments in the class was to attend the Career Expo. We spent the classes prior to the Career Expo talking about how to get ready for the event, polishing resumes, and getting elevator pitches ready.
So, I used some of my winter break job money to buy a nice suit (we’re all going to need a business formal suit anyways when we go back on campus), edited my resume with the help of the Viterbi Career Advising staff, went to a workshop, and made the mistake of quickly researching the companies the night before the Expo.
That is my first lesson learned from this Career Expo: Always research the companies attending well ahead of time. Researching ahead of time will ensure that you know if the company is the right fit for you, hiring students in your major (or your degree level), and it lets you know more about the company so you can tailor what you will say to the representative. I feel that I could have talked to more companies if I had started this research process much earlier.
The way the Career Expo was set up virtually was that we would queue up for one of the companies attending, and there would be a timer with an estimate of how long it would take for a representative to speak to you. Once it was your turn, the representative would send how they wanted to talk to you (Zoom or Google Meets for instance). There was an option on the Career Expo website where you could send your resume to the representative beforehand. It’s similar to how the Career Expo was done in-person, except instead of physical lines, it was a virtual one. Once you begin speaking with the representative, they would explain their company and the position that they were offering (job or internship). Then they will almost always ask “Tell me a little bit about yourself.” This is a prompt to launch into your elevator pitch, where you try to summarize who you are, your achievements, and why you want to be a part of that company. The goal of these Career Expos is to try to create a relationship with the person you are speaking with in the hopes of establishing a network, learning about a job opportunity, or even getting a call for an interview.
I was able to prepare my elevator pitch before the companies I spoke to, but I did alongside the time I was researching the companies — the night before. Second lesson learned: Practice and practice your elevator pitch, and create it well ahead of time. I believe I was still able to deliver my pitch well enough though. I felt very happy with the conversations I had with representatives I spoke to. I felt I was able to show my genuine interest in the opportunities and how my past experiences could be of use in that future opportunity.
After the Career Expo (and after any networking event where you get the contact information of the other individual) it is very important to send a thank you note (either by email or in letter). I, again, did not have much experience with writing thank you notes and this is when the Viterbi Career Services came in clutch for me. The Drop-in Hours for Viterbi Career Advising were still open, so I went into the call very quickly and asked for help in writing thank you emails. The two career counselors were very helpful and showed me what to include in a thank you email, even looking over my thank you emails before I sent them! So the third lesson learned was etiquette in Career events and how to write thank you notes.
Overall, I am very glad that I went to the Career Expo. I felt like I learned a lot about how Career Events work, and I learned about some really interesting summer opportunities. In fact, I am currently in the process of applying for a Summer Internship that I talked to one of the representatives about, who afterward sent me follow up information about it. The big takeaways I got from attending my first Career Expo was the general format and etiquettes of career events, as well as the importance of getting ready ahead of time! I’m sure I can learn from these lessons and make my next Viterbi Career Expo (in-person fingers crossed!) an even greater experience.
*Also for anyone interested in learning more about Career Events and all the ins and outs of job/internship searching, the Viterbi Career Services is an excellent resource (I especially recommend the drop-in hours): https://viterbicareers.usc.edu