Beating the Odds: First-Year Students Can Secure Co-ops and Internships at the Engineering Career Fair

by Betsy Miller

“No company is ever going to give me an internship; I’m just a freshman.” Such a common misconception. I found that it is absolutely possible, if that freshman is determined, especially with the incredible resources and opportunities to network at Penn State.

I decided about a month in advance that I was going to attend the Engineering Career Fair in pursuit of an internship for the summer of 2015, despite the “odds” being against me. I spent weeks doing research about the employers who would be in attendance, attempting to narrow down the long list to a few who truly captured my interest. Factors such as company type, reputation of internship program, and location played significant roles in my choices, leading to the final eight with whom I spoke when the day arrived.

As a member of the Society of Women Engineers and the Women in Engineering Program, I received excellent advice for preparing myself prior to the Engineering Career Fair. I was given suggestions from upper-class students about the format and content of my resume, as well as useful advice about dressing in formal business attire, giving a 30-second introduction, and carrying out a successful conversation with a company recruiter. My dad also prepared me years in advance by teaching me how to shake a person’s hand. If I could give anyone a piece of advice, it would be to never underestimate the power of a strong handshake.

With all of that knowledge brimming in my head, I made my rounds to my selected employers, trying to be confident and enthusiastic during each interaction. I ended up scoring an interview with GE, one of my top companies, and they have offered me a co-op position with them for this coming fall. I am ecstatic about the opportunity, and I am eager to see what else comes to fruition as I follow up with the other companies through emails and online applications.

For me, the Engineering Career Fair was a success, but even if I did not receive offers, I would have been thankful for the learning experience and chance to network for the first time. The career fairs at Penn State are such unique opportunities that many other colleges do not offer to nearly the same extent, which is why I think it is important for students and employers alike to attend. Penn State’s students, after all, are a great pool of young adults to invest in and hire, and companies should continue to support and recruit them at career fairs because our generation is the future.

Betsy Miller is a first-year aspiring mechanical engineer from Pottstown, PA. She serves as the corporate chair for professional development events in the Society of Women Engineers, as well as a member of Springfield (a THON organization) and Changing Health, Attitudes, and Actions To Recreate Girls, a women’s health and fitness club. Following graduation, Betsy would like to secure a career related to sustainability and design, and she hopes to climb the leadership ladder to become an engineering manager someday. 

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