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Career Center: Harness resources to dominate virtual workforce during COVID-19

ARCHIVE: Jacqueline Dobbins, senior communication major, visits the Career Resource Center (CRC) to discuss her internship. Dobbins’ first internship experience did not go well, and after going through the CRC, she finished two more successful ones. (Angie Merkely)

Since COVID-19 changed the global employment game, students have to be more creative in how they apply for both jobs and internships. Working remotely during the pandemic has affected the entire workforce, as a larger emphasis has been placed on harnessing skills for working virtually.

“Many students will encounter digital one-way interviews or Zoom virtual interviewing for their entire interview process,” said Trisha Jensen, director of the Career Center. “This takes a whole other set of skills to make sure they ace this different type of interview.”

Westminster College’s Career Center consists of certified career coaches to guide current students and alumni in their career goals. They help with career exploration, internships, student employment, networking, job search strategy development, personal branding, interview preparation, salary negotiation and more.

However, with the pandemic, the office operates differently than it did a year ago. The center now operates under an “entirely virtual model” in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, according to the center’s website

“The big change from how we’d normally work with students is that all coaching appointments are conducted either over the phone or video,” Jensen said. “It gives [students] more convenience than having to come into the office at a scheduled time.”

Before the pandemic, the Career Center often advertised itself through posters in bathroom stalls under the title “Career Center News in The Loo.” And while they are still hanging up posters in bathroom stalls, there has been a decline in students on campus resulting in fewer people seeing these posters. 

The office has turned to sending these updates as a PDF file, which can be found both on its website and in students’ Outlook inboxes. At the bottom of these fliers is a reminder from Career Center staff, encouraging students in all caps that “THE CAREER CENTER IS HERE FOR YOU. LET US KNOW HOW WE CAN HELP.”

The struggle for the Career Center, and for students, is the lack of knowledge of what free resources are available to help students and alumni in their career paths.

“Access to a career coach for free is a pretty rare benefit,” Jensen said. “Many colleges charge their alumni or cut them off after they’ve been out a year. Also, hiring a career coach out in the community is expensive, costing anywhere from $75-150 an hour.”

Additionally, the free resources aren’t limited to meeting with a career coach, as students and alumni have access to the Career Center’s menu of online access tools and platforms.

If students are hesitant to make an appointment with a coach, Jensen said the Career Center’s online tools can be a more ideal avenue for getting started with the approach to a student’s or alumni’s future. 

“We have organizational accounts,” said Jensen as she explained the purpose of many of the free resources, listing:

  • CareerShift: A job search management platform
  • Handshake: A one-stop shop college-to-career platform
  • StandOut: A mock video practice platform

By the time current Westminster students or alumni are ready to meet with a career coach, they are met with a team that holds a variety of industry backgrounds with a number of different degrees and certifications. 

“This diversity of backgrounds and training allow us to serve students who have a variety of interests,” Jensen said. “It also ensures that our coaches are on the leading edge of what’s expected in the job market for a variety of industries.”

Another component of the Career Center that has been modified to fit pandemic safety is their connection with potential employers.

“While we may not be able to host career fairs and events in person right now, recruiters are still hiring and wanting to connect with students virtually,” Jensen said.

While in-person connection with potential employers has become somewhat elusive, Jensen notes that students and alumni “can view upcoming events and get face time with those who are hiring by participating.” 

Despite any discomfort of the idea of creating a professional relationship through a phone call, Jensen said this type of networking is how many people get jobs. In fact, Jensen said she encourages students to “meet the people who may be reviewing your job applications in the future.”

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Katana Urry
Katana Urry is a junior communication major at Westminster College. She loves to play her blue guitar and is self-described as a sensible and sensitive punk rocker. The majority of Katana’s life experiences has been immersed in music and she hopes to pursue a career involving music in some way.

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