Students encouraged to ask for guidance with career search and to use new online portal
Staff in Sacred Heart University’s Center for Career & Professional Development is working with students to ensure their career and internship goals are on track during the pandemic.
Keith Hassell, the center’s executive director, understands stress and anxiety levels are high. But he urges parents and students to stay calm, work with his staff on an action plan and take part in the center’s virtual career events.
“We are doing everything we can to support students and make sure they fulfill internship requirements and find jobs after graduation,” Hassell said.
The center has had weekly office hours throughout the pandemic, during which students can scheduled time to review résumés, cover letters and other material.
In mid-April, the center hosted a seminar for seniors about networking in the virtual world. The event, led by a recent alumnus, focused on building a network using LinkedIn and other strategies for connecting virtually.
Career fairs for specific schools and programs of study also took place, and the center has continued to work with business partners who typically conduct student interviews on campus for job openings. Several of these companies also took the virtual route by conducting video interviews instead. “These businesses have job openings they need to fill,” Hassell said. He understands there are many people without jobs right now, but he wants students to know there is still work out there, and employers are hiring.
Collaborating with nine school districts that have job openings, center staff asked education students for résumés. “We matched the students with the jobs they were qualified for, and then they submitted their résumés,” Hassell said.
The University typically has a big job fair in the William H. Pitt Athletic & Convocation Center each spring. This year, however, it adjusted to the new normal and set up a virtual career and internship fair instead, Hassell said.
A virtual job fair actually is quite organized, he said. During the registration process, students can see all the participating companies. From there, they decide whom they would like to “meet” and select a time. On fair day, students are ready to speak with employers over chat.
“All of these virtual experiences are opportunities for students to hear from working professionals, while expanding their professional network,” said Hassell.
“I think the virtual career fair hosted by SHU was a tremendous success,” said senior Katia Dillion. “Not only did it provide a chance to network with recruiters, but it mimicked a real career fair without the built-up stressor like the crowds of people. I am grateful for this opportunity to connect with top employers during such an uncertain time period.”
Senior Gina Gramarossa agreed with Dillion. “Compared to a traditional career fair, this alternative still fulfilled all the major outcomes allowing students and employers to talk. I appreciate the efforts given to still make it possible to network with employers,” she said.
Hassell’s message to students is: “Don’t stress, we can hop on a quick call and figure out plans. We are approachable; if you’re stressed or overwhelmed, we can develop a plan of action. Let’s talk about that résumé, or that job application, or where to find that internship. A plan puts people’s minds at rest. We are here to help.”
This also is the perfect time for students to network on LinkedIn, he said, and he encourages students to connect with alumni who work in their field of interest.
“Think of things as business as usual,” said Hassell. Otherwise, those who sit around and wait might find themselves lagging behind when the dust does settle, he said.
Taking advantage of additional training or certification programs is one way to build a résumé and a background in a specific field, Hassell said. “You need to keep moving forward and staying positive. Being flexible and thinking outside the box will provide more opportunities,” he said.
In addition to answering emails, calls and video chats from students who are looking for support or guidance, the center recently launched SHUConnect, a digital career development portal for the University community.
The new portal aggregates and organizes the full range of career information, resources, tools, and opportunities into one space. It enables students to explore and engage with career development content easily, from anywhere, at any time. The portal also allows faculty and staff to refer students to relevant career resources and opportunities in advisory meetings and classes. Alumni can find career support on the new portal as well, and prospective students and families can explore the portal to get a sense of the extensive and diverse career development activity available to Sacred Heart students.
“We are deeply invested in preparing our students to succeed in life after graduation,” Hassell said. “This new portal streamlines our students’ ability to access the career development tools they need, and for the entire Sacred Heart community to support them along their journeys. The portal’s launch helps ensure that our students have the best career development experience possible.”
SHUConnect users will find digital “communities” where career development resources and opportunities are curated according to specific career interests, affinity and identity groups, while identifying steps along a career journey and connecting to faculty, alumni and employer mentors. This approach enables users to find all the information and support relevant to a specific interest in one place.