By Deanna Howes Spiro, Director of Communications, AJCU
The impact of the coronavirus on college campuses cannot be over-stated: From forcing classes and commencement online, to disrupting athletics and all campus events, to necessitating budget cuts for the next academic year, the pandemic has changed entire operations and campus life in just two months. For graduating seniors, the impact goes further, as they now seek employment prospects in a shrinking and uncertain job market.
One way that Jesuit colleges and universities are helping seniors is through the AJCU Career Service Leaders – an affinity group within the AJCU network. On Tuesday, May 19, representatives from Santa Clara University and Loyola Marymount University will host a webinar titled “Jobs & Meaningful Work During Covid-19.” The webinar is free and designed to help students and recruiters during this new era of change in the professional workforce.
Rose Nakamoto, Director of the Career Center at Santa Clara, will serve as a facilitator for the webinar, along with Branden Grimmett, Associate Provost for Career and Professional Development at Loyola Marymount. Nakamoto said, “During the last recession, students were ready to join the world of work but felt powerless and uncertain how best to do so amidst a strong economic undertow. Through this discussion, we ultimately hope to identify opportunities for students to have agency in creating their future, even when much is happening outside of their control. We’ll explore a series of timely topics, including how students can navigate the new and fluid Covid-19 job market, and the role of resiliency and purpose in the lives of our students during times of crisis and uncertainty.”
This is not the first time that the AJCU Career Service Leaders have collaborated together: In June 2019, the affinity group hosted a panel discussion titled “Professional Humans: Jesuit Education and the Future of Work” during the 2019 National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) conference in Orlando. The group also sponsors the Jesuit Career Consortium, a partnership through which students and recent alumni can receive assistance with internship and job searches from the career centers at each of the 27 Jesuit colleges and universities across the country.
While AJCU Career Service Leaders have been working closely as a network over the past two months, they have also been working diligently to support students on their own campuses. Jill Boatright serves as Chair of the Affinity Group, as well as Director of the Career Development Center at Loyola University New Orleans. She said, “This summer, Loyola is launching a new program called PIVOT: Transitioning your career plans into the Covid-19 world. With cohorts in both June and July, PIVOT is a four-week program to support seniors and recent graduates as they continue to seek opportunities to develop their skills and career plans within an uncertain job market due to Covid-19, by providing relevant resources and insights from the career coaching team and industry experts.”
Loyola has also turned to Zoom video conferencing to offer individual career coaching and virtual walk-in hours for students seeking advice. Many other Jesuit colleges and universities have done the same, including Loyola University Chicago, which launched a Virtual Job-Search Bootcamp Series through Zoom. Each bootcamp session focuses on a different topic, such as resumes and cover letters, networking, job-search practices and interviewing. These sessions will be held throughout the summer, all led by a Loyola career advisor.
In Syracuse, Le Moyne College is preparing a summer launch of Job Search Support Groups for the Class of 2020 (information will soon be available at lemoyne.edu/careers). Le Moyne has also created a YouTube playlist featuring video tutorials from members of the College’s Office of Career Advising and Development.
Social media has become a prominent tool for career advisers to connect with students in recent years, and has been especially useful over the past two months. Loyola University Maryland turned to Instagram last month to help promote a Virtual Career Fair that saw participation from 22 employers and 100 students. The College of the Holy Cross also hosts an Instagram account through which students can receive notification of events and words of advice from alumni, collected during a new social media campaign called “Wednesday Wisdom.” Rockhurst University has also connected with alumni, including those from the Classes of 2008 and 2009, who are sharing their experiences about seeking work during the Great Recession with today’s graduates.
Alumni have become involved with Georgetown University’s efforts to help new graduates, through Career Pathways – a weekly seminar featuring alumni, faculty and career coaches who counsel students exploring various career fields. The Seminar is held via Handshake, a platform used by most Jesuit institutions to post information about jobs and upcoming recruiting events. It can also be used to help facilitate reviews of resumes and cover letters, or schedule appointments with career service staff, as done this spring at The University of Scranton.
At Seattle University, two new initiatives are helping students navigate their career paths. Hilary Flanagan, Executive Director of Career Services, said, “Our focus has been on helping students stay up to date with trends and information that are helpful to them right now, so we’ve added an ‘RAQs’ section to our website, featuring answers to recently asked questions. We are also thrilled to be partnering with our alumni office to welcome the Class of 2020 into Redhawk Landing: an engaging new platform that has the ability to provide unparalleled access to SU alumni for formal mentoring, flash mentoring and communities of connection (e.g. student athletes and students of color).”
Other examples of virtual programming include workshops on applying to graduate school, sponsored by John Carroll University; online tutorials from LinkedIn Learning for students at Loyola Marymount; an e-newsletter from Marquette University; video tutorials from Saint Joseph’s University and Saint Louis University; a one-credit, tuition-free course about Career Management Strategies through Blackboard, sponsored by the University of Detroit Mercy; and a free, self-guided online Praxis Program for students at Boston College.
For students interested in pursuing careers in social justice and humanitarian causes, Fordham University’s Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs has launched the Online Humanitarian Career Exploration Series. The series consists of webinars featuring professionals from the United Nations and the Red Cross (among other organizations) and is available for students from all Jesuit colleges and universities.
In addition to offering professional resources, career services at Jesuit institutions are supporting students’ emotional needs. Gonzaga University’s Career and Professional Development staff called each of the 869 seniors and 243 graduate students who had registered to graduate this spring, in order to check in and ask how they were managing the situation. Staff are also receiving support from Ray Angle, Assistant Vice President for Career and Professional Development: At the beginning of their meetings, Angle invites a staff member to share a prayer or word of inspiration. Angle himself wrote a prayer for his team, which is now available on Xavier University’s online list of Prayers During the Coronavirus Pandemic.
The impact of the coronavirus could be felt for years, even decades to come, but it also offers opportunities, especially for students graduating in the Class of 2020. Jim Dickinson, Assistant Vice President for Career Services at Loyola University Maryland, said, “There is a harsh turn of events for the Class of 2020 that we need to acknowledge. In February, we were operating in one of the hottest job markets of all time. Today, we’re facing a global health crisis with unemployment numbers rivaling the Great Depression. Still, our students are pursuing their next steps with a resilient spirit and confidence in their ability to make a difference in whatever path they choose. The coronavirus pandemic has presented so many challenges, but I see early signs that it is also reinforcing my belief that Jesuit-educated graduates are exactly who the world needs now.”
For more information on career services at the Jesuit colleges and universities featured in this article, please click on the following school names: Boston College, College of the Holy Cross, Fordham University, Georgetown University, Gonzaga University, John Carroll University, Le Moyne College, Loyola Marymount University, Loyola University Chicago, Loyola University Maryland, Loyola University New Orleans, Marquette University, Rockhurst University, Saint Joseph’s University, Saint Louis University, Santa Clara University, Seattle University, The University of Scranton, University of Detroit Mercy and Xavier University.