How MPACE Career Centers are Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis
Thursday, March 26, 2020
Posted by: Sara Jones
How MPACE Career Centers Are Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis
Posted by: Sara Jones, Assistant Director of the Center for Career and Calling,
Seattle Pacific University
The coronavirus outbreak this month has required career centers everywhere to transition to remote services—quickly. In the spirit of “Disruption causes innovation” (thank you, Kelly Dries from University of Redlands, for the reminder), here are some ways career centers across our region are getting creative to provide students high touch experiences this spring, plus discover new opportunities, all while staff work from home.
CAREER CENTER RESPONSE
Engaging with & supporting students and alumni
Appointments and online resume reviews:
● Many career centers are offering options for virtual and phone career counseling appointments through Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and other platforms, as well as online resume reviews. Some have a Resume Reviews inbox, that student career advisors monitor.
● The University of Washington is also offering drop-in coaching, which they manage through same-day scheduling in Handshake combined with a recurring meeting in Zoom. (In Handshake, they created a new appointment type called Virtual Drop-In Coaching” and a new user account called “Virtual Drop-In Career Coach.” Each morning, they open an appointment block for the Virtual Drop-In Coaching appointment type, and students can log in to Handshake, choose that appointment type, and select a time for that day.)
Virtual/video workshops and articles:
● Many are also offering more video and virtual workshops and groups. Tip: Some have found Gen Z students don’t recognize the term webinar. Virtual workshop or livestream works better. Programs may need to be shortened since it may be difficult to keep engagement for an hour in a virtual workshop. Many are also considering recording workshops, panels, etc. and creating a video library.
● Many are also providing more newsletters and other written content for students. The University of Utah is starting a new blog for timely information about how COVID-19 is impacting work, tips for working remotely, and more. Western Governors University is adding articles to the Handshake Resource Library on Social Distancing Support Resources for Students & Alumni and Companies Hiring Now During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is exploring a weekly newsletter that promotes upcoming events and spotlighting virtual services. The University of Redlands is also sharing a weekly newsletter, highlighting virtual engagement options as well as specifically highlighting companies who are increasing their hiring during this time.
● Many alumni might also be facing layoffs, furloughs, and increased stress during this time. For alumni who own their own companies, they could be under a lot of pressure, and seeking support. The University of Redlands Career Center sent a message of support specifically to alumni, and are currently exploring virtual programming for those who might be experiencing challenges during this pandemic.
Live chats, social media, and writing campaigns:
● University of Utah is doing a virtual career studio for live chat help from student career advisors, utilizing ConexED/Cranium Café.
● Chapman University is planning a social media takeover after spring break to answer questions their students have about careers and remote work. One example:
Chapman’s team will divide the questions into major themes/categories and address them in 15-60 second videos on their Career Instagram story (the ones that last 24 hours).
● With its Alumni Office, Seattle Pacific University is launching an Ask Me Anything campaign on Switchboard. It will initially be piloted with faculty from the Communication major, pairing current Communication majors with Communication alums. These will be low-key, low-stakes conversations, where a student can ask an alum anything they want--career-related or otherwise.
● Seattle Pacific University is also exploring a letter or email-writing campaign for seniors, who suffer most being remote in their final quarter/semester. Each staff member would write a number of seniors expressing support, sharing resources and their contact info, and inviting them to reach out.
Finally, career centers are promoting the 24/7 resources for students they already have: online career development field guides, alumni-student mentoring and connection platforms (PeopleGrove, Switchboard, AlumniFire), mock interview and resume review platforms (Big Interview, StandOut, VMock, Portfolium, and Focus2, among many others).
● Many career centers are organizing with employers to offer virtual employer sessions (e.g. with Hallo) and virtual workshops.
● Career Centers are also partnering to arrange virtual interviews, encouraging job postings by employers, and sharing out which employers are hiring remotely.
● Chapman University is also organizing virtual career excursions, and Cal Poly and the University of Redlands are considering virtual career fairs.
Online & social media messaging about COVID-19
● Most career centers have created a COVID-19-specific page on their website where they explain their changes in programming this spring. These include information about scheduling appointments, online career assessments, job/internship search resources, other online resources (e.g. StandOut mock interview platform), and more. Specifically:
● University of Utah has a Remote & Timely Work Opportunities widget (remote and local high-need job opportunities for student jobs impacted by COVID-19):
and a Breaking the Stigma COVID-19 page, addressing discrimination against those of Asian descent.
● Chapman University is posting daily updates on how their office is responding to COVID-19 (for-credit internships, drop-ins vs appts, etc.).
● Western Governors University is also doing more frequent social media messaging about COVID-19 support resources and where to access them.
Working effectively with staff remotely
● Many universities are meeting once or more a week virtually, doing daily check ins, and using Microsoft Teams, Slack, Google Chat, and Zoom to communicate and meet.
● University of Utah has also connected their phones to Skype for Business, which redirects calls made to their offices to their computers or personal phones. The team can receive calls and phone out without having to give out their personal numbers.
● UCSB has started organizing virtual happy hours to build community, and other universities are exploring other team-building strategies. The University of Redlands has started “Wacky” Wednesdays to bring something “fun” to their video team huddle to “show and tell” and break up the monotony of virtual calls.
● Many universities are also encouraging staff to take part in webinars and continuously learn during this time. Given the increase in screen-time with all meetings turned virtual, the University of Redlands offered all staff the option to purchase professional development books to read during this time, to help focus on professional development, and find ways outside of the computer to do so. Professional development is a great use of time to break up the day when working remotely.
For an employer perspective, here are some things a large California company (who prefers to remain anonymous) is doing.
Engaging with & supporting students
● For current interns: the University Recruiting department is hosting virtual intern meetings/check-ins/office hours; virtual intern onboarding; workshops; tech talks.
● The employer also isn’t reneging on offers or candidates in final stages, is providing interns the ability to work from home, and is providing interns managers and mentors with FAQs, including remote work guidelines.
● The employer has converted previously scheduled events at schools this spring to virtual panels, coffee chats, and sessions.
● Any remaining full-time or internship interviews are scheduled all via Zoom.
Working effectively with staff remotely
● To be in touch: Slack channels, Zoom, emails, manager office hours for extra check in time
● For professional development: Managing Through Change and Ambiguity Workshops
● For tech support: Giving employees/interns access to all tech equipment needed to do their jobs (monitor, keyboard mouse, headphones, etc.)
● For fun and community building: Team huddles (15-30 members) with funtivities, contests with prizes, WFH bingo, happy hours
The bottom line from the career centers and employers we spoke with is to stay focused on students. Ask what they need most during this challenging time--which may be different from what we assume. Also, keep communication lines open and explore ways to build community among staff--it’s easy to feel isolated at home. Finally, be open to opportunities. Many career centers shared that they were enjoying this chance to learn new technology, and felt they were operating more effectively in some ways than before.
Have more ideas or resources to share about exciting things your university or employers you know are doing? We’d love to hear them! Please share in the comments below, or on MPACE’s LinkedIn Page. We’re in this together :).
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