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Pharmacy Students:

Navigating an Internship Career Fair

University of California, San Francisco

Series
Understanding the purpose and value of an internship career fair will help
you to make it a useful and rewarding experience. So here are the basics:
For employers, an internship career fair is an opportunity to:
Share information about themselves to recruit competitive candidates
Inform you of current and future openings, and
Collect your resume (in some cases)
For attendees, an internship career fair is a chance to:
Introduce yourself and express interest
Learn about organizations and current and future positions
Understand the organizations hiring process and timeline
Establish connections with staff at organizations
Heres the first rule of an internship fair: It is rare to walk off with an
actual internship by the end of a fair; a successful fair experience is one where you leave with information and/or
contacts through a series of 5-10 minute meetings. Tables are often staffed by human resource specialists, professional
recruiters, pharmacists and/or UCSF alumni. So dont just drop off your resume; mine the wealth of information! HR
specialists and professional recruiters can give detailed information about a position (what positions are open and where, the
application process, the benefits/strengths of that particular organization and hiring timelines). Pharmacists and alumni can
add why they chose the organization, and share personal experience about the culture and their experience with the
organization. These conversations help you understand the hiring process and learn about the organization, which will help
you tailor your application materials and interview more effectively later. This is why internship career fairs are valuable.
What to do before an internship career fair
Although you will not be formally interviewing the day of a fair, its best to be prepared:
Learn key information about the participating organizations: To learn more about attending organizations, visit their
website or talk to fellow students who worked there. What are you looking to find out about? The mission, focus and
culture of the organization. This includes how they describe themselves, what they believe they offer interns, how their
internship opportunities are structured, and what interns experience on a day to day basis. Also consider what it is about
the opportunity that is interesting to you. This will give you a sense of what to focus on in your conversations.
Have a pitch: Prepare a brief (1 minute) summary of two or three of your top qualifications and interest in their internship
program to share with employers. For example:
Hello, my name is Diana Prince. I am a first year with two years of health related hospital-based experience and
Spanish language skills with an interest in community pharmacy. I am specifically interested in Walgreens because
your website described a broad range of experience for interns, including working with a range of medications from,
OTC to prescription medications to herbal products, and operations and management responsibilities opportunities.
Can you tell me if you will have positions open in Southern California?
Hi, Im Bruce Wayne. Im a second year with two years of community pharmacy experience and an interest in
oncology. I would welcome any opportunity to work with acute care patients, but am interested in John Muir because
of your outpatient oncology pharmacy opportunity. I have heard from fellow students that your program focuses on
learning different cancer disease states and symptom management. I also like your focus on training inpatient
counseling and the chance to have both clinical and project based experiences. Can you tell me a little more about
that particular internship and the application process?
Have resumes: Have about 10-15 copies of your resume available to hand to those employers collecting resumes (dont
worry about putting it on fancy paper plain white paper will do).
Wear at least business casual: Go for a professional look for your first impression. It doesnt have to be a suit, but it
does help to look polished. This includes slacks/skirts, button down tops/blouses/sweaters, hair back, minimal jewelry.
Skip the shorts, jeans, flip flops, sneakers, and anything else that youd wear casually over the weekend. If you have
questions about business casual, check out our Pinterest page on Business Casual Wear, at career.ucsf.edu.

Copyright 2012 Regents of the University of California. Prepared by Naledi Saul. Naledi.Saul@ucsf.edu. Do not reprint without permission. 1

Pharmacy Students:
Navigating an Internship Career Fair

University of California, San Francisco

What to do when you arrive at an internship career fair:


Stepping into a crowded career fair can be daunting, unless you are clear about your goals before you approach employers.
Ultimately you want an internship. However, your focus should be on presenting yourself well in the 5-10 minute face time you
have with a representative. Heres how:
Get a game plan: Before you talk to anyone, walk around the fair when you arrive. Who is there and where are they
located? Are the 3-5 companies you hoped to see present? Who is busy? How long are representatives speaking with
visitors at their table? After you get a sense of the layout and vibe, decide which organizations you will approach first.
Adjust your expectations and be curious: Accept that some booths will have long lines. Don't be discouraged. While
waiting in line, speak with others and see what theyve learned from the fair and which employers theyve met.
Take every chance to prepare: Before talking to representatives, you can, at times, bypass the line just to take the
organizations information. With this information, you can formulate more tailored questions
Listen in: When near the front of the line, listen to what the representatives are telling other participants - it prevents you
from asking the same questions, and enables you to tailor your answers.
What are some good questions to ask?
Internship seekers often wonder how to use their valuable 5-10 minutes of face time with a representative. After
sharing your brief summary of your two to three top qualifications and your specific interest in their internship, ask
questions that will help you determine if its a good fit for you, and present yourself as a strong candidate:
Ask about aspects of internships that fit your skills and interests (acute care, management training, etc.)
Ask where the organization is hiring (in SF, LA?) and the best way to learn about future positions
Ask about the hiring process/timeline (are there rounds of interviews? When does the interview cycle start?)
Ask what types of skills or qualities they are looking for successful candidates.
Ask if they have information on the career paths of interns (do interns stay with the organization, etc.)
Ask who the appropriate point/contact person would be if you are interested in following up with the organization.
(It might be them, or if you are applying in another region, there may be a different contact person).
Ask how best to follow up with the recruiter or contact person regarding an internship opportunity.

Dont be discouraged if organizations are not able to provide detailed information on hiring timelines or the number of
internship openings. They may not have this information yet, but their presence means that they are interested in hiring UCSF
students. Keeping in touch with the contacts you make during the fair will help you obtain this information once it is available.
What do you do after an internship fair?
So, youve waited in lines, shown interest in organizations and positions, spoken with representatives, gotten several
business cards, gained a sense of how to target your resume and cover letter, and found a position or two you want to
apply to. But then, so have 20 other people. Where does your material go and what should you do next?
After leaving a fair, spend the next few days processing all of the information you have received. Which organizations
seemed interesting and/or interested in you? Then, sit down and write out a list of next steps. These include:
o If the representative at the booth gave you a business card, follow up on it. Send them an email thanking them for the
opportunity to meet them and for their candor in your discussion. See sample thank you notes at career.ucsf.edu
o If you have a great conversation with a pharmacist or alum, send a thank you email, and suggest the possibility of a
20 minute informational interview. Attach your resume and follow up on your email with a telephone call. To learn
more about informational interviewing, visit our website at career.ucsf.edu
o If you saw a position of interest to you, plan to send in a tailored resume and cover letter, even if you've submitted a
generic resume at the fair. To see sample resumes, donated by former UCSF students, visit career.ucsf.edu
o Keep your network updated on your search efforts. Send an email out to all of your present contacts informing them
that you attended the fair, and that you intend to apply for X or Y position. Ask them if they know anyone in any of the
organizations you are interested in. If they work for the organization, ask if they would be willing to forward your
material on to the hiring manager.
Good luck in your search and remember, help is available! In addition to online resources, you can schedule an appointment
with a career counselor in the OCPD to further discuss your internship search at 476-4986. Learn more about appointments
at career.ucsf.edu.
Copyright 2012 Regents of the University of California. Prepared by Naledi Saul. Naledi.Saul@ucsf.edu. Do not reprint without permission. 2