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Across Grounds, career services adapt to aid students in recruiting season

Students can expect another hybrid recruiting season throughout the school year

When recruiting season rolls around for both internship and job opportunities each year, students can find themselves overwhelmed by the endless possibilities and career paths available to them. Fortunately, the multiple University career offices around Grounds are ready to connect students to the best opportunities for their unique skills and aspirations. 

Batten Services

One such career services office is the Career Services Office of Batten, which assists students in the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. This team of three includes Jill Rockwell, senior assistant dean for student and career services, Steve Hiss, director of career services and alumni engagement and Hannah Guffey, assistant director of career services and alumni engagement. The office aims to expose students to different career paths and options in various areas including government, non-government and private sectors, as well as offer general support with resumes, cover letters and recruitment processes. 

"Some folks come to college and they have their mind made up,” Hiss said. “They know they want to be an engineer or a doctor or whatever the case may be, so they fulfill their requirements, get a job in that industry and go right on. And then there's others who come to school and are not quite sure what they want to do and two years later they join us in the Batten school and they're still not quite sure what they want to do … so we help them with that process.” 

Among some of the resources the Career Services Office of Batten offers are templates for resumes and cover letters, alumni networking events and the Frankly Speaking newsletter — a weekly career newsletter that lists job and internship opportunities for students. They also organize Coffee Chats — short and informal one-on-one sessions where students can sign up to speak with alumni working at companies they’re interested in. Students can sign up for these sessions through Handshake — a platform that students can use to sign up for events, attend workshops and apply for jobs and internships — or through emails sent out by career services. 

Mock case interview preparation is another resource offered by the Batten career services office. Batten students can sign up for virtual one-on-one sessions to run through mock interviews with career staff to gain practice and feedback for future interviews. They also have free access to RocketBlocks, a website that helps students prepare for consulting and tech interviews.

“The ultimate goal is to help students figure out what they want to do and help them get to that next point,” Guffey said. “And there are lots of different ways that we can do that, depending on what might be most beneficial to any given student.” 

This past year, the process of aiding students looked slightly different from previous years due to the pandemic. As companies switched their in-person visits to virtual interviews, Batten’s career services team also adapted their typical resources to work around COVID-19. Resources such as one-on-one advising sessions were transferred to Zoom meetings that Batten students can sign up for through Salesforce Advisor Link, a system used for scheduling appointments with the career office. In the broader University career scene, all career fairs also went virtual and could be navigated through Handshake, which is available to all University students. 

“When everything's one-on-one or quasi group sessions in Zoom it’s a little harder than being at a career fair and just kind of sauntering up to a table and listening to the recruiter talk while you're five feet away and they're talking to somebody else,” Hiss said. “So, some of that got a little harder.” 

In other ways, the pandemic has been beneficial for exposing more students to potential career paths. Virtual platforms have made some career events more accessible, like in the case of the Batten school’s joint career trek with the Economics Career Office in November 2020. In a typical year, this career-themed trip would give 15 to 20 students the opportunity to network with professionals from think tank organizations — an area many students are interested in due to the problem-solving nature of these typically non-partisan organizations. Students from across the University are welcome to sign up on a first-come, first-serve basis. This November, rather than an in-person visit to these industries, students were able to attend virtual panels and information sessions featuring participating think tanks.

“Previously, [the event] may have been something that we tried to host in-person for a smaller group of students, but because we were restricted to a virtual environment we were able to work with a much larger number of organizations,” Guffey said. “We reached over … 300 students across a couple of days and we got to engage folks that we may not have been able to engage otherwise and still share some really great information with students.”

This year, students can expect some career events to take place in-person, but most events will remain virtual for the convenience of students and recruiters, as well as to abide by safe COVID-19 procedure. Students who are uncomfortable attending any in-person events will have other virtual options available to them.

McIntire Services

Beyond the Batten School’s Career Services Office, the McIntire School of Commerce’s Commerce Career Services has also sought to continue providing adapted resources that aid students in their internship and job search. The CCS team of 11 includes Anne Afriyie, assistant director for career development, and Jeannine Lawrie, associate director for employer relations. The office aims to provide students with proper preparation and connections between their students and employers through a variety of resources.  

In addition to holding their one-on-one advising sessions virtually, the CCS also compiled a number of resources for students on the MyMcIntire portal — a system utilized by all Commerce students for information specific to the McIntire School. Included in the portal are preparatory materials for virtual interviews including regularly uploaded videos, blog posts and general information about internships and jobs that are updated several times a week. 

“We always recommend that students seize networking opportunities, but especially in the virtual-hybrid environment,” Afriyie and Lawrie said in an email to The Cavalier Daily. “More so now than ever, if a student has a question about the recruiting process, we recommend researching MyMcIntire and Handshake, reaching out to the company to clarify and meeting with CCS coaches and Career Peer Coaches via walk-in hours or individual appointments.” 

Before compiling resources on MyMcIntire for their students, the CCS team analyzes both hiring and student interest trends. This allows the team to specifically tailor programs and resources to aid students in the recruiting process.

“Students had to adapt quickly and be creative with their work experiences and skill building,” Afriyie said in an email to The Cavalier Daily. “We are very proud of our students and how they faced the challenges of the past almost two years.”

More general resources available to Commerce students seeking internships and jobs include virtual alumni networking events, mentor programs and one-on-one coaching with professional and peer coaches. Students can also use the MyMcIntire portal to stay up to date with the many events hosted by McIntire for all University students including Commerce Career Day — a networking and branding event for all University students — and the Careers in Business Series — a series featuring guest speakers to provide students with information and guidance for careers in business.

Students have also learned to adapt to novel methods of conducting interviews virtually. No matter the industry, students have had to adjust to and navigate the various changes in their respective recruiting processes.

“I think it’s harder to show off your personality over Zoom because it's just a screen,” fourth-year Commerce student Minoti Kishor said. “So, it definitely was a little bit more impersonal, but I think the more interviews I did virtually, the more comfortable I got with talking over Zoom and trying to be more personable. In the beginning I was definitely more robotic and just very focused on making sure that I was presentable.”

Both the Batten School Career Services Office and CCS have taken part in the virtual career fair hosted by the University Career Center this past year to connect students to potential employers through virtual information sessions and interviews and will continue to take part this coming year. 

“Look for opportunities that meet most of your career goals, but also allow for growth opportunities. Leverage the U.Va. network,” Afriyie said in an email to The Cavalier Daily. “Help your fellow students. If you are finding success, share your tips with friends. The UCC and CCS offices are here for you. Make an appointment with a coach at your career center if you are stuck and need help figuring out your next steps.” 

Engineering Services

The University’s School of Engineering is also offering a variety of hybrid resources for students undergoing the internship and job-searching process. The Engineering Career Development Team is headed by Julia Lapan, director of engineering career development. The team also includes three career advisors and an employer relations manager, all of whom organize events and offer support for Engineering students throughout the academic year. 

Most events being planned for engineering students this year will be virtual, at the request of recruiters. The few in-person events scattered throughout will be smaller and primarily held outside to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines. 

“Even before the pandemic, many companies were reevaluating how they connected with students,” Lapan said. “We were already seeing a shift in how companies were recruiting … and combining that with COVID-19, I think we probably will go back to some form of in-person but it probably will not look the same way that it did before COVID-19.”

One virtual event offered was the virtual Engineering Career Fair Sept. 17. Over 100 employers will be attending the virtual event on Handshake and all students are welcome to attend, not just Engineering students. Before the event, students can sign up for one-on-one or group sessions with employers through Handshake.

“The other thing for engineering students is that when they look at the career events on Handshake, the events don't always have to have engineering in the title,” Lapan said. “There are things like data analytics and financial technology career events, so engineering students should be looking beyond that word ‘engineering’ in the title and be thinking about sort of the broader world of work.” 

Aside from the career fair, the Engineering Career Development Team offers resume review sessions, mock interview sessions and one-on-one career coaching appointments with career advisors. The team also sends out two weekly newsletters specifically for School of Engineering students — one to undergraduate students and one to graduate students — full of important career-related information.

“Before jumping into the job or internship search, it's important that students take the time to reflect,” Lapan said. “We, in the career office here in engineering, believe that the most successful and the most satisfying careers are built around a student's interests, values and skills.”

They also encourage students to utilize the Virginia Alumni Mentoring program, available to all University students, which connects current students to alumni who can help with career development. Handshake is another platform recommended by the team, used by career services across the University. 

The team has also begun offering a new resource — faculty-led virtual projects — since the start of the pandemic to supplement their pre-existing career resources. The faculty projects were offered in the summer of 2020 in response to many internships being moved to a virtual environment or being cancelled entirely. The projects were offered again this past summer and will likely start to be offered every summer as an opportunity for students to gain applicable project experience. 

“There are just hundreds, if not thousands, of other organizations out there that would be interested in hiring a U.Va. student, so it's really important for students to know what they want and know how to make connections with those types of jobs,” Lapan said. “And if they don't know the answers to those things, that's where we come in and that's why we are here — to help students and to help them get that job.”

Architecture Services

On the other side of Grounds is the School of Architecture and Betsy Roettger, the assistant dean of students and career development, who works to provide Architecture students with resources they need for their career development.

This past year, Roettger was able to host a week-long virtual School of Architecture Career Fair that she hopes to replicate a shorter version of in the spring. The fair consisted of workshops in the morning that covered topics such as how to make a portfolio and how to write a resume and career panels in the afternoon with alumni. After the panels, students could attend the office hours of alumni who spoke in the panels to ask more questions. Most Architecture career events such as the virtual career fair will stay online, with the few in-person events being held in a more informal environment and on a smaller scale. 

“We have awesome alumni because we're so small that we generally know everyone who's graduating, and they keep in touch,” Roettger said. “So I feel like we're pretty lucky that way. We don't have the highest paying job in the world, but we do have people willing to really listen and help support students.”

The School of Architecture Career Services also offers virtual one-on-one portfolio reviews, alumni networking events and career advising appointments. Architecture students can stay up-to-date with career-related information through emails sent out by Career Services. 

“It doesn't take quite as much to get people together as it used to for the career panels, we just find their lunch hour and plug them in,” Roettger said. “It sort of evens things out too — we have large firms that have actual HR and recruiting budgets to send people and then we have small nonprofits that don't have the money to fly someone out, so there's more access online for firms that don't have those big recruiting budgets.”

Another popular program within the school is the externship program, which aims to match students with firms all over the country for a one- to two-week-long externship over winter break. Traditionally, students will travel to work at these firms, but this past year most externships took place virtually and will likely still be virtual this winter break. Architecture students can attend workshops to improve their resumes and portfolios before the Google form application is due in October. On the application, students will rank about seven firms according to their preferences and firms will review student applicants and do the same. Using the rankings, Roettger and work-study students begin the matching process to have students matched by Thanksgiving break. 

For younger students who would like to do more career exploration, Career Services is aiming to provide more general information sessions. At these sessions, multiple students can speak to firms in a less-intimidating atmosphere. 

“I would suggest people are more flexible, and maybe even more risk-taking, than normal because some of our students would go and just get a part time job because the firms just weren't ready to commit, but then it turned into a full time job,” Roettger said. “Luckily, development is still happening ... so I think it's time to take risks and try new things.”

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