Pivoting to Adapt May Pay Off for Your Student
by Priscilla Beth Baker
Many of your kids are understandably worried about not being able to get jobs after graduation or internships related to their majors this summer due to COVID-19. Some companies are holding off on hiring decisions, switching to “virtual” jobs or internships, outright canceling internships due to budget cuts, or sometimes just sending money out to students whose internships were canceled. Some summer and fall co-ops will hopefully start late if things are more or less back to normal in time for the Fall semester.
What we are hearing in the advising world is that current employers will be forgiving of students not having an internship this summer but will expect that they will do something to improve their skillset and experience.
Here are some ideas to pass on to your kids to make the most of their time:
- Work on projects related to your major this summer. For example, a mechanical engineering student is making parts with his 3-D printer to hold face shields for medical personnel. He raised over $1000 using GoFundMe overnight to help pay for materials. Consider what those possibilities might be for you.
- Use Linked In Learning to learn some new skills. Examples of short courses and tutorials include entrepreneurship and software (Python, Java, etc.). You will also earn certificates that get attached to your LinkedIn profile.
- Take some time to study for a test or exam like the GRE (Graduate Record Examination, needed to apply to many graduate school programs), the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test), or some other specific exam related to your field of study.
- Take some time to do career research, including informational interviews during which you interview people doing the job(s) you hope to do when you graduate. This will also help you with your communication skills and can help you network for a future job. (suggestions on questions and how to ask for an interview). An oft-asked interview question is, “Describe a significant challenge and how you faced it.” Our current situation is a perfect example of that!
- Take advantage of this time to network with recruiters and companies, so when the job market does open back up, you will already have established these relationships. Don’t be afraid to reach out to companies you are interested in and foster those connections!
- Spend time trolling the job-posting platforms available to you through your University Career Services offices. Familiarize yourself with these platforms in terms of how to conduct effective searches, the various filters each one features, and the employers who are posting on there. Employers that are currently posting positions should be of particular note since they are clearly able to withstand an economic downturn.
- Keep an eye out for Virtual Career Fairs and Professional Development Webinars (EventBrite, Career Echo, etc.) and online information sessions that companies are starting to host.
- Update your resume – create a long version for any opportunity then delete entries for specific opportunities to tailor your resume. Changing your Statement of Purpose is not tailoring your resume. Jobscan.co is a great resource to learn how to customize your resume.
- Work actively on the “7 Career Competencies” so you are more career-ready when you graduate. These are the “soft skills” so important to employers now, often much more so than your GPA and coursework. These are the skills that cannot be taught but are imperative for career success: Communication, Professionalism, Teamwork, Global Perspective, Leadership, Creative Problem Solving, and Digital Fluency.
- Research/apply for graduate programs.
- Get a “regular” job note related to your major. Even the jobs that you might consider to be menial will help improve your people skills and show initiative and leadership potential, all soft skills you can speak to in an interview.
- Volunteer with meaningful service projects.
Most importantly: Don’t be discouraged. Be patient. Follow up with recruiters. Don’t wait to hear from them. Make sure things haven’t changed since things are changing daily and weekly at this point. And remember: you are not alone! Most students are in the same situation, so don’t get too anxious or depressed about it – just make the most out of the time you have available this spring and summer!
Priscilla Beth Baker – Priscilla Beth Baker currently works as an academic advisor at a large university and has two college-aged sons of her own. She is also a former high school English teacher and educational writer for Prestwick House Publishing.
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