Launching a Career During a Pandemic
“We have to acknowledge that this is a difficult time for our students,” Hagi Bradley says. “And we have to work together to offer them the help they need to develop and move confidently in the direction they want to go.”
Bradley is vice president and dean of student life at St. Lawrence. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced him to navigate a lot of changes—and help students do the same. As a new academic year begins, seniors are facing a big hurdle: the job market that awaits them.
“It will be challenging,” he says, “but Laurentians have overcome this before and we will this time, so long as we work together.”
The “work” he describes is socially distant, but otherwise instantly recognizable to St. Lawrence alumni: students talking one-on-one or in small groups with faculty and staff members in classrooms, labs, offices, the student center, or a table in Owen D. Young Library or Dana Dining Hall. In all these places and conversations, seniors will analyze everything from the job market to their resumes and even their own aspirations. They’ll strategize and draft plans to network and apply for positions, for grad schools, or the licenses and permits they need to start their own businesses.
This happens every year on campus. This year, however—perhaps more than any other in recent memory—success will depend on the involvement of St. Lawrence alumni and parents.
The University’s office of Career Services has been reaching out to the Laurentian network in hopes of connecting seniors to those who can help our students gain workplace experience through:
- Micro Internships – These short-term, paid professional projects can include content development, data capture, social-media analytics, and other responsibilities. Completed remotely, micro internships give students work experience while building their skills—even while taking classes. Executives who offer micro-internships may select candidates regardless of institution, though most choose to select students from their alma mater. The number of opportunities available to St. Lawrence students is limited. St. Lawrence alumni and parents can offer our students micro internships at http://info.parkerdewey.com/stlawu/featured.
- Internships – Months-long, professional assignments give students more in-depth work experience and the chance to prove their skills and knowledge. Internship experiences help our graduates land the jobs they want most. While traditional internships are usually open to a wider pool of candidates, St. Lawrence students often look to alumni and parents for guidance, preparation, and introductions that open doors to these opportunities.
- Laurentians Investing in Networking and Careers (LINC) – A mentoring program that helps sophomores focus on developing professional knowledge and skills.
Over the past few months, Career Services has also launched these programs for seniors:
- Employer Insights – Through tele-conferencing, our students gain an inside view of professional settings. This program also prepares Laurentians to interview with hiring managers who have little or no connection to St. Lawrence. In situations like this, our students must be able to concisely describe the University and its impact on their professional development. Employer Insights can also help our students and graduates expand the Laurentian professional network.
- Alumni Insights Series – These virtual conversations cover a range of topics, including “Using Linked In to Your Advantage,” “Healthcare on the Front Lines of COVID-19,” and “How to Build a Powerful Brand, Even with No Experience.”
- Workshops and Seminars – These events outline best practices in exploring options, as well as preparing, applying, and interviewing for jobs, internships, and graduate school. They also provide students opportunities to practice their interviewing skills.
- One-on-One Meetings with Seniors – Each St. Lawrence senior can have a one-on-one meeting with Career Services. During these conversations, students can voice their ideas and interests, ask questions, and identify goals for their senior year, graduation, and beyond.
St. Lawrence has also established working partnerships with online providers, including LinkedIn, to offer our students more than 14,000 professional-development courses they can use as part of their career preparation to gain the skills and experience this tight job market now demands.
University Advancement is making sure these programs can safely continue their important work:
- Laurentian Connection – St. Lawrence University boasts one of the nation’s top alumni networks. Laurentian Connection is an online platform built specifically for us. It’s a place dedicated to networking, mentorship and connections amongst the St. Lawrence community. Alumni, parents, faculty, staff and students can unite on this platform, support each other, and add perspective in their industry or experience. Here, Laurentians can serve as a resource to fellow alumni or current students.
- NYC Semester – This residential program in Manhattan offers our students the opportunity to intern in some of the most coveted positions in finance, the arts, and cultural institutions throughout New York City.
- SLU Connect Live – Through tele-conferencing, this initiative helps students focus on the professional fields they’re interested in, then connects them to Laurentian alumni and parents currently in those fields.
What Did You Do During COVID-19?
Jillian McKernan-Walley ’93, P’21 is director of career services at St. Lawrence. Her work—preparing students to launch their careers and connecting them to the Laurentians who can help most—has intensified due to the novel coronavirus.
“The job market now,” she says, “presents unique hurdles our graduates will have to overcome. Still, companies large and small need the unique knowledge and skill sets that St. Lawrence students have.”
She and her staff are working with seniors on the granular details of entering the professional world.
“Our students know the importance of the basics,” McKernan-Walley says.
“They’re getting detailed help with resumes and other written communication, interviewing—remotely and in-person, and presenting concrete reasons for hiring managers to choose them.”
She says this includes answering one important question:
“We know that every interviewer will ask, ‘How did you spend your time during COVID-19?’ Career Services can help our students develop accurate and focused responses that may include: volunteering, taking additional online courses, learning a new language—including computer-programming languages. These are important demonstrations of character.”
Now, McKernan-Walley says, these students are looking to us for help launching their careers.
“They’ve reached out to our community and they’ve networked in hopes of
finding someone who can help them cross the finish line. That means an opportunity, like an internship, fellowship, or possibly a job—a chance to prove themselves and launch their professional lives. They’re looking to Laurentian alumni and parents now to see our character.”