Career Services Facing Student Fears

by Ann Siock | Staff Writer

SCRANTON – With the country’s economic future in question, it is natural for some students to be concerned about their job prospects after college, but Chris Whitney, Director for the Center for Career Development, says that unlike the 2008 recession, there are still opportunities for recent and upcoming graduates.

“Fear, I think, is the greatest challenge [facing students],” Whitney said. “I think fear because all of the people surrounding us and surrounding the students — their parents, their mentors and so forth — because we all lived through 2008, 2009 and 2010 when there was crisis and there were no jobs. So immediately people went into that mode thinking we’re in a crisis therefore there are no jobs, and that’s simply not the truth.”

Whitney cited recent job postings for the month of October on Handshake alone. More than 1,600 full time jobs have come up and more than 899 internships, all of which students and recent graduates are capable of applying for.

That’s not to say that the pandemic has not posed its share of challenges on students trying to gain experience and build up their personal and professional networks. With more restrictions on travel and social gatherings, more and more businesses are conducting interviews and, in some cases, entire internships remotely.

On a local level, Whitney said Career Services has had to adapt its yearly programming to match the needs and restrictions the campus community is placing on them by moving their traditional job fairs online.

“These virtual events are super great opportunities for them to meet with companies that would not come on campus [usually],” Whitney said. “So, I’m seeing this as a silver lining that our reach and the number of companies we can bring to our students is not confined to 130 employers in the Byron Center. All sorts of employers can come and create a virtual event, students can pop in, get some information, give some information to a recruiter and move on.”

Students have also been given a unique opportunity to intern at companies located outside of the Wilkes-Barre-Scranton area without ever having to leave campus through remote internships.

“We have some students right now who are interning all across the country,” Whitney said. “We have one student in KSOM who’s interning in Los Angeles and totally can do that because it’s a virtual experience.”

However, Whitney said some students had reservations about the online experience at first.

“They were afraid they weren’t going to be able to connect with people, they weren’t going to be able to meet with them in person and get to know them,” Whitney said. “And consistently they said that wasn’t the case. They said they had Zoom meetings or even phone calls where they talked and they started to build a rapport with these folks.”

For students currently out of work or operating on a condensed work schedule because of shift cuts, there is another unique opportunity being offered through micro-internships posted on Parker Dewey’s platform. These are paid, project-based internship opportunities that can range from five to 40 hours for completion.

Students benefit from being able to see project descriptions and compensation before applying for a given internship. If students complete their assignments in less time than is projected, they still receive the same compensation than if they used the full time allotted to them.

“They are competitive, but it’s one way that people are building their skills and building their resume,” Whitney said.

Along with virtual internship opportunities and the micro-internship opportunities being offered by Park Dewey, Career Services has updated its website to help students prepare for more online interviews and made their interview and resume preparation services more readily available through extended hours of operation and new platforms.

“If you go to our website our curriculum is there,” Whitney said. “So, we can have this stuff available to you at eleven o’clock at night when you’re panicking about the interview rather than have to wait for really traditional interview [prep].”

Features Career Services offers includes Vault.com and Big Interview. Vault.com allows students to research prospective careers, companies and internship programs while Big Interview allows students to practice online interviews at different difficulties. Students can tape their Big Interview practice interviews and send it to Career Services as a link to get feed back on their interview from a career counsellor.

“So I think people are fearing because their parents are fearful for them,” Whitney said. “[They] just need a little bit of education and just need to take a peek to see what’s out there.”