CPD news for parents & families
What does the current job market look like for internships and post-graduation jobs?
Donna Cassell Ratcliffe, Director, Career and Professional Development
There is a lingering perception that, due to the pandemic, the current job market is not good for college students seeking internships and post-graduation jobs. As we all know, in March 2020, many employers had to shift positions to remote work, and some employers could not make that shift for all positions. Employers in some industries took a very hard hit and could not keep commitments to students they had hired for internships or post-grad jobs. Employers in other sectors have continued to do very strong business (construction and mortgage lending, for example).
What about now? In our interactions with employers, we are hearing many who have positions they want to fill and cannot. Unfortunately, we are hearing that there is a misperception among some students that there are "no jobs," and that some students may be giving up before even trying to find a position. What do our numbers say? In Handshake, the job posting system that Career and Professional Development has open to all Virginia students, there are more jobs posted this spring semester than there were in spring semester two years ago. In spring semester 2021, there have been 23,000 jobs posted for VT students, over 8,000 of which are internships and co-ops. What we hear from employers, and the numbers we have, do not support the myth that there are "no jobs."
Traditionally, many employers who actively recruit college students for internships and post-grad jobs do much of their recruiting in fall and early spring. As this article is being published in late April, we're less than a month from the end of spring semester. Many employers, though, are still seeking hires, so that is good news for students who are still in the mode of seeking internships or post-grad jobs. Where should they look? These are good starting points:
Handshake. If employers ask to post jobs for Virginia Tech students and recent graduates, that's where they go. Handshake is widely used by many colleges and universities, and employers who recruit college students are familiar with using Handshake. There are new postings daily for internships and jobs.
CareerShift is a database we make available to Virginia Tech students and recent graduates. Searches can be done by job title, key words, company, geographic location, and more. This is a robust, web-crawling platform that captures all publicly posted openings.
Career-field-specific websites. There are many niche websites focused on specific career fields, and these can be very useful tools for students to learn more about career options, and find internships and jobs in their areas of interest.
Networking: Not all employers recruit on college campuses. Our economy is filled with small organizations that do hiring on an as-needed basis. Networking, simply being in communication with those you know, and reaching out to new contacts, is an evidence-based, effective way for many job seekers to connect with opportunities. Hokie Mentorship Connect is a program that enables students to connect with Virginia Tech alumni for career and job search advice, and is a prime networking resource offered by Virginia Tech.
Job search skills
Finding jobs is one thing. Having the skills to effectively apply and present oneself are another. Many of us have Zoom fatigue, but interviewing and attending career fairs by video conferencing existed before the pandemic, and employers tell us these methods will continue to some degree even after in-person recruiting is safe again. Employers report that reaching students through virtual recruiting and offering remote jobs contributes to a more diverse workforce, and gives employers a broader reach, and is cost-effective. For students, learning to present oneself via video and phone is simply a necessary professional skill. We offer help:
- Preparing for virtual interviews. This includes Candid Career short videos on virtual interviewing.
- CareerSpots also provides short videos on the virtual job search in their job search section.
- And see more on the many aspects of the job search.
If students need more help:
Nearly every single day we provide advising to Virginia Tech students and new graduates. Students should see advising for details and how to schedule. We're here to help. Some students may be uncertain how to start, or may have run into roadblocks on the search. We can help coach a student through the process, advise on resources, and help trouble-shoot if students are facing hurdles.
What is Experiential Learning?
The concept of “hands-on, minds-on” learning is paramount to the Virginia Tech student experience. Experiential learning (the process of learning through reflection on doing) has been a cornerstone of many higher education academic programs for over 100 years. Virginia Tech started its own cooperative education program almost 70 years ago and has been helping students gain real-world work experiences through cooperative education and internships since that time.
Virginia Tech is embarking on a new initiative in experiential learning with a long-term goal that every Virginia Tech student will graduate with a guided learning experience through experiential learning. Specifically, the university is focusing on Career Bridge Experiential Learning which includes cooperative education, internships, service-learning, global education, and undergraduate research. You can learn more about experiential learning at Virginia Tech.
Sometimes students aren’t sure where to start. It is important to remember that there is no wrong experience, especially if students are unsure of their goals. Just taking those first steps will help them find their initial path. That path may be as narrow as a sidewalk or as wide as a four-lane highway, but doing something is always better than doing nothing. We offer resources so students can explore their major and career options and hopefully find some areas of interest that fit with their personalities, skills, and values.
We can also guide students as they engage in meaningful experiences, so they can feel confident they are heading in the right direction. Finally we are here to help students develop so they are ready to launch into their first destination of employment or graduate school. If your student is considering a year or two of service, we can help with that too!
For students who are feeling as though their goals may be unachievable, it’s important to remember that small steps forward can lead to future opportunities. For example, if a summer internship seems unattainable due to a lack of experience, starting with interactive class projects or volunteer work may be an excellent way for a student to build a skill set that could land them a future internship or job.
As with any developmental experience, reflection is key. We hope that you will encourage your students to consider the competencies that they have developed through each of their experiential learning opportunities. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) has surveyed employers to learn the competencies that employers value including critical thinking, teamwork, and work ethic, which can be honed through experience.
As always, we are happy to work with students and assist them in all of these areas. Students can schedule an advising appointment.
We hope you and your students are staying healthy and looking forward to warmer weather and more time outside. Many students believe the job market is still down and have put off looking for work for fear that there aren’t any opportunities out there. While certainly some industries have been hard-hit and are still struggling, many employers are still hiring for both internships and full-time jobs, both in-person and remote.
Handshake is our platform where employers post internships and post-graduation jobs for Virginia Tech students. The information below is from the most recent 90-day snapshot of job postings (as of mid-February 2021).
Top 10 industries with 500-1,000 active jobs and internships posted in the last 90 days (from over 60 industry categories as defined by Handshake):
- Internet and Software
- K-12 Education
- Non-Profit – Other
- Manufacturing – Other
- Human Resources
- Sports & Leisure
- Electronics & Computer Hardware
- Other Education
- Government, Local, State, & Federal
Count of jobs posted in most recent 90 days by employers for Virginia Tech students, by academic level sought:
Your student can view and apply for these internships and jobs in Handshake. As always, our office is happy to help students navigate this process. We offer many job and internship search strategies and students can schedule an appointment with a career advisor.
Our staff looks forward to helping your student achieve their career goals!
By Guest Author: Keyara Johnson, Hokie Mentorship Connect Ambassador
How to network during Covid
During the pandemic, virtual classes were not the only change that students had to make. Virtual networking has become the primary and recommended way to connect. When you think about it though, this way of networking is not new to many. Virtual is very similar to in-person networking: both start with finding the right place to be and people with whom to connect! Below are a few places to network and a few tips that can help you make successful connections.
If you would like to connect with anyone who has any type of relationship with Virginia Tech, HMC is the place to be. HMC is an online platform whose main focus exemplifies the saying, “Hokies helping Hokies!” If you are new or getting used to the platform, I recommend browsing until you are comfortable with it. HMC provides an anonymous option to ask questions on all discussion boards and access to all alumni, faculty, and staff on the platform. Flash mentorship and discussion boards, either in the main group or our specialized groups, are a step further into the platform. This is where participants interact with each other and can create meaningful connections.
Professors, Faculty, and Staff
Attending classes, advising appointments, and university events is networking, too. Just as it is recommended to email and meet your professors at the beginning of the semester for in-person classes, it is the same for virtual classes. We need to stay physically isolated to prevent risk, so many people are lacking a genuine connection. You can make a professor’s day just by having your camera on, and imagine what it would be like if you actually carried on a conversation with them. Faculty and staff are just as excited to talk to you. Professors, faculty, and staff are happy to help and often offer to do so!
LinkedIn is the platform that comes to mind when we think about virtual networking. On LinkedIn, you can connect with people who share common interests with you: Virginia Tech, hometown, and even high school. I recommend following Virginia Tech and your respective college(s) and major department(s). Then, connect with the alumni within each industry. Send a note with the connection to make the connection more personal. A basic note could be:
“Hi [their name], I am [your name]. I would like to connect with you because we share a common interest in [however you found them]. It would be a great pleasure to connect with you.
Remember, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take!
Webinars and Virtual Events
In order to compensate for the lack of social connection, webinars and virtual events are becoming more prevalent. This works if you are interested in relocating to an area to which you cannot easily travel. Virtual networking has opened the gate for everyone to explore all possibilities. Actively engage with hosts or guest speakers. If there is an option to have your camera on, do so. Afterward, find hosts or guest speakers on LinkedIn, Hokie Mentorship Connect, or any other social networking platform and reach out. Mention a key component that was mentioned during the event to get a conversation going. Or you can simply reach out saying you have attended a virtual event they participated in.
To make the best out of your connection, consider informational interviews. Informational interviews are usually a scheduled meeting with your new contact to learn more about the interest you both share. Remember, a key to connecting with others using these platforms is being personable and genuine. Do not be shy about reaching out to make a connection — we are humans who need social interaction with other human beings. Do not dwell on it if someone does not reply to you. Networking varies with every person but there will always be someone out there for you!
Heidi Gilbert, Assistant Director, Career and Professional Development, seeks your assistance
Research indicates that family is one of the biggest influences on a student's career development. 52% of 2018-2019 Virginia Tech [undergraduate] graduates reported learning job search skills from family and family friends. (Source: First Destination Report, Virginia Tech). Career and Professional Development is expanding our online career resources for Hokie families, and we want to hear from you. Our goal is for family members to feel empowered and equipped to have career conversations with their student(s). The survey should take less than 2 minutes to complete. Thanks for sharing input that will help us develop new resources for Hokie Families! Complete the 2-minute survey.
Guest author: Wynne Reece, VT Communication Studies ‘93; Senior Talent Acquisition Lead - CapTech.
This fall has offered many unique recruiting experiences for students and employers alike. Never before have we had to do all of our job fairs, coffee chats, classroom presentations and campus interviews virtually. We quickly found that a lot of the things that differentiate employers from one another are hard to highlight in a virtual environment; similarly, we realize it’s hard for students to make sure they are standing out as a top candidate in a virtual setting.
At CapTech, we’ve talked to hundreds of students in the last couple of months and we’ve also attended sessions with other employers on tips and tricks for navigating this “interim new normal.” The biggest thing that stands out to all of us is something relatively simple: just doing research on the company goes a long way. If a student has read over our website, understands our core values and mission, is familiar with the job description, and can explain why they are interested in working for us, they earn major points and have a much better shot at progressing in our interview process.
But how do students stand out before the interview process? Making a good first impression at a virtual career fair one-on-one can be more challenging over video. One tip is to prepare an “elevator speech” — this doesn’t mean just reading a resume to an employer, but rather highlighting some interesting things that make the student unique. This should only be 30 seconds to two minutes and can highlight things like why the student chose Virginia Tech and/or their major, a big take-away from an internship or part-time job (or volunteer work) that has helped the student be a better student or better prospective employee — and then wrap up with a brief “sell” on why the particular employer is of interest and the skills the student could bring to the role.
Some other tips for virtual meetings:
- Use a virtual background or at least make sure beds are made, room is tidy
- Remove distractions (dog, roommate, cell phones)
- Sit up straight, speak clearly, maintain appropriate eye contact
Once a student has made that good first impression and is granted an interview, the prep work needs to continue. Most companies have behavioral interviews for at least one round. These are used to determine how someone has handled various job situations in the past to predict how someone will perform in a new job. The key is to be prepared with specific examples and keep the STAR method in mind:
Just about anything is fair game when it comes to specific examples/situations: class work, class group projects, part-time jobs, internships, club involvement, sports, volunteer activities, leadership opportunities, hackathons, case competitions, etc. I usually recommend having five to six experiences in mind and keeping those current to the past two to three years. Then think about what various tasks they had to do or solve in these various experiences. Then, what was the specific action taken to complete these tasks, and finally the result — what happened?? What was the learning experience?
Some common examples of behavioral questions and prompts are things like:
- Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
- Tell me about a time when you were a member of a great team. What role did you play in making the team great?
- Tell me about a time when you had to handle conflict within your group.
- Tell me about a time when your supervisor/co-workers gave you feedback about your work/actions. What did you learn about yourself?
Once the student has secured that amazing job, there are some factors to keep in mind when working in a virtual setting. Communication with colleagues and setting appropriate boundaries around work hours are both very important. If the company offers flexible working hours, it’s essential to make sure the employee’s calendar is updated with times they will be out of the “office.” Unless there are major deadlines due, try to limit time on work phones/laptops to a standard eight-hour to nine-hour day (or whatever the company expects). Have a room (or section of a room) dedicated to work with a comfortable, supportive chair, a desk, good lighting and headphones — but get up and take regular stretch breaks or go for a walk.
It’s important to get immersed into a company’s culture right away to feel that sense of belonging, so if a company offers virtual social activities, this can be a great way to meet new colleagues and become engaged with the company. If the company has Employer Resource Groups or community/culture-focused groups, these also offer a great way to meet people and get involved virtually.
We wish Hokies the best of luck navigating these challenging times!
Career and Professional Development wants to thank Wynne for offering such good advice to our students. We offer more resources for students on how to prepare for interviews.
Guest author Rebecca Scott is a senior majoring in Biological Sciences. She works as a peer career advisor for Career and Professional Development.
Exploring health professional careers
Deciding on a career journey can be a tricky task. If your student has narrowed down their interests to the health professions it may be overwhelming to discover all of the potential paths there are. I am a fourth-year student studying Biological Sciences with the goal of attending dental school. It took me a lot of research to finally decide on my predental journey. The following are what helped me most in deciding on my path within the health professions!
It is important for your student to familiarize themselves with the everyday tasks of the health profession that they are interested in. Looking up the realistic daily routine and interactions of a profession is a very important influence on any final decisions. Many paths taken within the health professions will require an extensive amount of time and money, so it is important for your student to know what their potential future holds and that it is something they will truly want to pursue! Explorehealthcareers.org is one website that pre-health students can use to explore various career paths.
There is no better way to learn about a field than to sit down and talk with a professional within that field! Networking may sound intimidating to students, but I found talking with those in the field I aspired to enter into – also called informational interviewing – one of the most helpful factors in making my decision. All it takes it sending an email asking for the opportunity to chat with them about their job. Hokie Mentorship Connect and LinkedIn are two resources that can be especially helpful for finding professionals to connect with. If your student doesn’t know where to start with informational interviewing, the Career Planning Guide provides some good advice on page 46. Shadowing a professional during their typical workday is also a great experience. Though these opportunities may be limited or look different during these times, there is always value in talking with or observing a professional one on one during what is a typical job day for them.
What I found helpful in deciding on my field of interest was to think back on classes I had taken and determine what I most liked and most disliked learning about. Your student should also think about why they want to be a health professional. Though these paths often provide financial stability, they also require a considerable amount of time and money. It is also important for students to reflect on what their ideal workplace would look like. Working in an office? Working with other people? Working with their hands? Health Professions Advising (HPA) at Virginia Tech has a Canvas page for pre-health students – called the HPA HUB – that contains a series of modules designed to help students reflect on their goals, motivations, and values.
Health Professions Advising
Visit Health Professions Advising in CPD for more resources on the health professions! Scheduling an appointment to talk with an HPA advisor is a great start to navigating this field. HPA will advise on any step in the career planning process and will serve as a great resource for students during their time at Virginia Tech.
Fall greetings, with best wishes for everyone's health and safety. We are in a busy time for both career fairs and postings for jobs and internships. We do anticipate that employers' recruiting activity could extend more heavily into spring than in past years, as many things are uncertain for employers at this time. It is still important for students to be actively taking advantage of fall opportunities, including applying for jobs and internships and preparing for possible interviews during this fall semester.
Researching the employer prior to an interview
Research in preparation for an interview should be much more in-depth than research prior to a career fair (see September news, below). When interviewing, it is helpful for your student to weave specific research and knowledge of the company into responses and customize answers according to the values, purpose, and structure of that employer organization. Doing this well requires a lot of time on websites, on LinkedIn, and in talking with alumni or others the student might know who are, or have been, associated with the company.
Preparing questions to ask the employer during an interview
Students should be prepared that, before the end of an interview, the employer will ask interviewees if they have any questions to ask about the organization, the job, or the internship. Your student should prepare about five to ten questions to have ready, and these should not be questions that the student could easily find answered on the employer's website. It is unlikely they will need to ask ten questions, but having extra questions prepared is wise because some of the student's questions might be answered during the course of the interview, and they should always have questions to ask the employer. Interviewing is a two-way street! Asking questions in interviews demonstrates your student’s genuine interest in and knowledge of the company, and their thought process. More about questions to ask an employer during the interview.
Virtual interview preparation
There are many nuances to preparing for a virtual interview, which refers to interviews conducted by phone or video. Many companies have used virtual interviews for years as a first interview and as a means to narrow the candidate pool. One important reminder is to dress professionally, and not just from the waist up. It’s hard to be certain what can and can’t be seen with a web cam. We recommend wearing full interview attire because this helps one behave more professionally and less casually, which is important for an interview. We provide more advice on preparing for virtual interviews.
Practice interview resources
Our office specializes in offering practice interviews that are behavior-based, meaning incorporating questions that ask how someone has behaved in the past because that is the best predictor of future behavior. Our appointment options, all virtual at this time, include practice interviews. A real interview should never be used for practice; employers can detect this and they find it offensive because their time is valuable and they want to spend it with students who are genuinely interested in their organization. For interview practice, students are welcomed and encouraged to schedule an appointment with a career advisor.
We also offer a platform called InterviewStream that enables students to record themselves responding to interview questions, and then watch the recording and see feedback (such as how often they say "um"). This has unlimited use and can be accessed 24/7/365.
We wish all students the best as they continue to search for valuable experiences to build their resumes and prepare for their next endeavors after graduation. Success is said to be a combination of preparation and luck. The part we control is preparation. Career and Professional Development is here to help students with that preparation, both through advising and our online resources!
Virtual career fair prep
Good news! We will have career fairs this fall but they will be virtual due to Covid 19 concerns. Your student can still make connections with employers and open doors to their future careers. View the list of VT-affiliated career fairs. Preparation for a virtual career fair is not that different from an in-person fair, and it’s important your student does their research and is prepared.
How your student stands out
In a career fair setting, your student will have to highlight their strengths quickly in a way that will make them stand out. Many people use elevator pitches, short summaries of who they are, what they have done, and what kind of opportunities they are looking for. For virtual fairs, students should be ready to both speak with an employer in a video chat but also have their elevator pitch in document form so they can copy and paste into a chat.
Students also need to research which employers will be in attendance and decide their top choices of who to talk with. When researching for a career fair your student should focus on broad knowledge. Encourage them to know the basics of a few companies that will be there and have a few notes that they can refer to. Showing they are prepared with questions is another good way to rise to the top for a possible interview.
The structure of a career fair is conversational, even in a virtual environment. More often than not, a career fair will be your student’s first encounter with a company. Because of this, one of the main goals of a career fair is to provide a positive platform for future networking, connections, and interviews.
Students should be able to enter a virtual queue or waiting room to talk with an employer. They will not know ahead of time if the employer wishes to talk through a chat or video. Therefore, they should dress professionally and be in a quiet place with reliable internet and a plain background in case an employer uses video. They can only be actively chatting with one employer at a time but should not lose their place in other queues.
Because we cannot safely bring employers to campus (and many have their own travel restrictions in place), we are not able to organize post-career fair interviews. Therefore, employers will be doing these on their own, most likely either over phone or video. Next month we will be talking about preparing for virtual interviews.
Students can see more information on virtual career fairs.
Welcome to the 2019-2020 school year, one which looks different than any before. We in Career and Professional Development are here to help students in all aspects of their career journeys.
One way students can be better prepared for jobs or graduate school is by getting involved outside of their academics. Many students wait until junior or senior year and it’s better to get started early. Opportunities include: student organizations, volunteer work, part-time jobs, research, externships, internships, job shadowing, etc. By getting involved students can not only explore major and career options, but also build their resumes and expand their networks. Our office, academic advisors, and faculty can all be great resources if students aren’t sure how to get involved.
More and more employers and graduate programs are looking for applicants who can demonstrate they are professionally competent. Some people refer to this as having “soft skills.” Here are some specific competencies that stand out:
- Teamwork and interpersonal
- Professionalism and productivity
- Creativity and problem-solving
- Global perspective
- Digital fluency
Students can learn more about these competencies and assess their career readiness. Demonstrating these competencies to employers and graduate programs is going to take more than just going to class. Be sure to encourage your student to search for opportunities as early as possible where they will be able to increase their career readiness. Our office is happy to work with them on the best way to highlight these on a resume, at a career fair, and in an interview.
And let’s not forget, employers are also looking for adaptability during these ever-changing times. We’ve learned this year that all professionals must be able to learn new technologies and work in different environments.
We look forward to working with your students this year. For everyone's health and safety, our fall advising appointments will continue to be by phone or Zoom, and our staff is available to help. We are also planning many educational events for fall semester.
What are college students to do in the COVID-19 economy?
May 15, 2020
By Donna Cassell Ratcliffe, Director, Career and Professional Development
Perhaps this is the question you are asking about your student's summer or post-graduation job options.
I have the privilege to serve as director of the Career and Professional Development team at Virginia Tech, and we have been continuing to advise students by phone and zoom appointments since we made the shift to remote work in mid-March. Recently I spoke with three students. Kara and Thomas were disappointed that the employers with whom they interned last summer have cancelled their internship programs for this summer. Kara was exploring other options, while Thomas was preparing for an interview for a different internship. Lindsey, a graduating senior, was excited to report that she had a job offer the day we spoke, and she accepted that offer. This unprecedented spring semester has ended. Many college students are still looking for summer jobs, internships, and post-graduation positions. This is a stressful time, not only for college students, but also for employers who have pushed the pause button on their recruiting activities while assessing the economic impact of COVID-19 on their businesses.
So, what do we know?;
What we know from data:
The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) has been conducting regular COVID-19 pulse-check surveys of employer members. Some highlights from early May responses:
- 65% of employers are not changing their staffing levels. That’s good news.
- 10% of employers have laid off staff, and 9% have furloughed staff.
- 22% of employers had been forced to rescind some or all offers for summer internships.
- 83% of employers with internships are modifying their programs to be virtual (not surprisingly) and/or condensed to a shorter duration.
- Only 4% of employers had to revoke offers for post-graduation positions.
- Some employers, 19%, were still undecided on the status of post-grad offers.
- Recruiting offices report using several methods to increase their virtual recruiting activities. An example is opting for real-time, live, interactive methods of connecting with candidates and conducting interviews.
- 31% of employers have not yet begun planning for how the 2020-2021 recruitment year will look.
- 28% of employers are planning for a hybrid strategy — virtual and in-person — for fall 2020, and shifting to in-person strategies for spring 2021.
What we know from recruiters:
Due to strong relationships between recruiters and our Career and Professional Development staff, many have communicated with our employer relations team over the past two months. This has been a painful time of contemplation regarding summer internships and post-graduation job offers. For employers, having college students work on-site during summer, and sometimes during fall and spring semesters, helps them identify students to whom they wish to make post-graduation job offers. For employers, internships are part of their strategy of developing a talent pipeline. Employers are highly vested in developing students, and it pains them if they are forced to cancel summer internship programs or rescind job offers. While remote work does not replace in-person, workplace interaction, it is a very valuable experience, and a great alternative under the present circumstances.
We have heard from some employers who, if they have had to retract or modify offers, are giving students forms of compensation, or financial assistance for losses (e.g. rent for housing at a summer internship location the student no longer needs). Many employers clearly want to be helpful to students to whom they gave commitments pre-COVID, even when it is impossible to fulfill those commitments now. Some employers who have had to cancel internship programs have promised the impacted student job offers after graduation in 2021.
Are any employers hiring? Yes.
While some employers, in the profit, nonprofit, and government sectors, are continuing to determine their current and future hiring needs, the good news is that many employers are actively posting jobs and hiring. Where can students find these?
- Handshake is our system for employers to post internships and jobs for VT students. From early-April to mid-May, nearly 4,100 new opportunities were posted, 490 of which were internships, summer jobs, and co-ops. All VT students and new graduates have a Handshake account. If they are seeking employment, they should be on Handshake, creating or updating their profile, posting a current resume, and applying to positions.
- We have posted more sources to find employers hiring during COVID-19. This is also prominently linked on our home page.
What are summer alternatives?
If students are worried that their resumes will lack an internship for summer 2020, they can set that worry aside, as long as they take advantage of other options. Employers understand this, yet will want to know how students invest their time to continue growing, learning, and thriving.
- Take academic classes in summer.
- Acquire skills and knowledge through webinars, podcasts, LinkedIn Learning, and TED Talks.
- Career and Professional Development is offering five new summer programs, to enhance student career development.
- Hokie Mentorship Connect lets students connect with VT alumni for mentoring, and seeking career information and advice.
- CandidCareer videos give students career information from people working in many career fields.
- Virginia Tech has additional summer alternative programs for students including undergraduate research and service learning.
To learn more:
We will be creating video seminars about our programs and services, summer alternatives, and hosting employer panel discussions. If you would like to be notified about events and programs, please compete our parent and family interest survey.
Encourage your student to meet with our career advisors:
Students and recent graduates can schedule an advising appointment for all career planning topics; we are conducting these by phone or Zoom. We provide information and tools for students on many career topics.
Guest Author: Victoria Freiberg is a senior studying Psychology and Human Development at Virginia Tech. She is currently working as a Field Study student for Smith Career Center.
Whether they vocalize it or not, your student might believe their first job must be their forever fit. This belief places a huge burden on your student’s shoulders, making them feel pressured to find the perfect job right away. Maybe you too have a specific career vision in mind for them, a path you are secretly, or not so secretly, hoping they will follow. If any of these scenarios sounds like it fits you or your student, keep reading to gain some real life advice about job search expectations after graduation.
Does your student’s first job have to be their forever fit?
Not at all! Your student’s first job out of school doesn’t have to be, and probably won’t be, their forever job. It is only the first step in their career journey. Your student won’t know what they love or hate in a job, what they are truly looking for, until they have held different positions and worked in different environments. Jobs and environments will help them build valuable skills for their next step. This buffer of time allows your student to try out some different roles and find what fits for them!
Steppingstone to Greater Opportunities
Even though your student’s first job probably won’t be their forever job, it is an important steppingstone in their career journey. Because of this, your student shouldn’t accept just any job that comes along. They should be on the search for a first job that will teach them transferable skills they will be able to use in their future career.
Their first job should point them in the direction they want to go even if it will take a few years to actually get there. For example, a few years ago, a student came to see a career advisor at the Smith Career Center. This student wanted to go into pharmaceutical sales; however, they had science degree but no sales experience. Because of their lack of sales experience, they took a job in sales after graduation with the intent to gain experience and then transfer into the field of pharmaceutical sales. Even though this sales job may have seemed random to some people, it was a very directed steppingstone to their dream career.
Be picky, but not too picky
How can your student ensure that their first job will be this great steppingstone to bigger and better things? They can ask good questions, visit offices, meet potential coworkers, negotiate their salary if appropriate, discover if there are opportunities for mentorship within the company, and implement other needed steps to ensure that their first job will propel them forward into their future career. Being picky in these ways can give your student a step up; however, it is still wise to advise them against being too picky. Remember their first job probably won’t be their dream job or the job they would want to have five years from now! The goal is that it would be that first step towards their dream job, leading them down the correct path to hold the job they do want in five years!
Everyone’s path is different
This is also a great opportunity to remind your student, and yourself, that everyone’s path is different. Some people go back to school after a few years, some switch jobs a year in, and others stick with that first company for the majority of their lives. Everyone is different, and that is okay!
Even though it might be difficult or scary, it’s important that you, as family members, are okay with your student’s path having some twists and turns. If you are beginning to get frustrated or discouraged by your student’s career choices, ask yourself: Am I in the same job I started in fresh out of school? Is my current job what I planned to do while in college? Is it directly related to the major I studied in college? Chances are you hold a different position than the one you did fresh out of school and that your current job doesn’t directly relate to your college major. In the same way, there is grace for your student, remembering that even if their career search or job choices seem messy, these twists and turns are just small steppingstones to their dream career.
This month we have an interview with Keyara Johnson, one of the Ambassadors for the Hokie Mentorship Connect program. Keyara is a student working toward a B.S. in Marketing and a B.S. in Management.
1. What intrigued you about Hokie Mentorship Connect?
I was introduced to HMC at the beginning of the pilot launch. For some reason, I’m into being like a “lab rat” for new things. I have been through a few mentoring programs, but they weren’t as helpful as I thought they would be. I came to Virginia Tech with enough credits to classify as a second semester sophomore, so time was ticking for me to figure out what I wanted to do with my degree and career.
My mentor helped me talk through different majors that I was considering. She asked questions and provided me with information that connected the major to the career. We did research to help me prepare a list of questions to ask my advisor. I was hoping HMC would give me the help I was seeking and it did.
2. Why did you decide to informally continue your relationship with your mentor?
I felt like we fit together like two pieces of a puzzle that didn’t look like they fit, but they definitely did. Both of our counterparts hadn’t reached back out to us during the first month of the structured mentorship. My mentor didn’t fit the criteria I was looking for in a mentor, but that was the best part. Your mentor shouldn’t be an exact copy of you. Surprisingly, we hit it off pretty well.
Her aura is welcoming and warm. My dream career path doesn’t include the normal office, 9-5 job. I want a creative job that isn’t always in the office. I was afraid to tell anyone who was invested in my career that, since it wasn’t guaranteed that I would end up in the entertainment industry.
3. How did your mentorship shift more towards a personal one?
Soon enough, my stress shifted from mainly academic/major wise towards personal. I am open-minded, and I am interested in other’s opinions. I have to think aloud in order to make the most optimal decisions. My mentor listened to my thought process and offered different perspectives that I had not considered. She made me feel as if she was my family away from home. I am a first generation, minority student, so I felt lonely and clueless on campus. She listened to my concerns and even gave me valuable advice. With that, she helped guide me through my first year of college.
4. How and why would you suggest students utilize the Hokie Mentorship Connect platform?
Hokie Mentorship Connect is a hidden gem on campus. This an entire platform that connects you with who you’d like to be in 5+ years. What’s a better way to figure out your career path and purpose at Virginia Tech than Hokie Mentorship Connect? HMC makes the process easier, and you don’t have to stalk future employers on LinkedIn or social media.
Freshman to senior level students have access to flash mentorship and public discussion boards. Both of these methods allow students to get quick answers about interview tips, requirements for careers, and even if you’re just curious about some aspect of the career field.
Sophomore to senior level students can participate in the full-blown purpose of Hokie Mentorship Connect, structured mentorship. This is when you’re partnered for six months with your dream mentor. This situation can enhance your networking skills, help you achieve SMART goals, and maybe even develop a lifetime relationship.
5. From a mentee perspective what suggestions would you have for first-time mentors?
I would tell first-time mentors that the key is patience. Don’t have any expectations, either. A great mentee-mentor relationship cannot be built in a day or forced. The majority of the time, both mentor and mentee are nervous. If you just go with the flow, the process will go smoothly. Don’t jump right into business the first day. Take a few days to get to know each other and find similarities and differences in your backgrounds, etc. If there is a solid, great foundation, nothing can go wrong. Also, I want to thank all mentors who take the time out of their day and lives, voluntarily, to help us Hokies out. It is greatly appreciated.
6. What has been your experience serving as a Hokie Mentorship Connect Ambassador this semester?
My experience as a Hokie Mentorship Connect Ambassador has been fulfilling! One way for ambassadors to get the word out about Hokie Mentorship Connect is to set up tables at different events — tailgates, picnics, etc. We get to meet students who have no idea about HMC or are wary about joining. Hopefully, we can convince you that Hokie Mentorship Connect is a great program that advocates for a connection between undergraduates and Virginia Tech alums. We are intrigued by you and your questions, so don’t be afraid to ask.
7. After this inaugural year what would be your hopes for Hokie Mentorship Connect?
I hope HMC is as well-known as other mentorship programs on campus. So that HMC becomes something that is recommended and everyone participates on campus. Something that’s always creating a buzz and well-known. I see the platform being used in many classrooms. Virginia Tech is all about making sure everyone has a job after graduation. What better way to increase chances of that than having valuable relationships with employers.
Guest Author: Victoria Freiberg is a senior studying Psychology and Human Development at Virginia Tech. She is currently working as a Field Study student for Smith Career Center.
Searching for internships and jobs can be a stressful process for your student, but no need to worry! If your student follows these tips, they will be on the right track to staying focused, productive, and positive throughout their search.
Focus on one step at a time
Everyone’s path is different. Some people stick with their first job for years, others take a gap year, and some even end up going back to school late in life to change careers. Whatever their path, your student doesn’t have to decide their forever career right now. Instead of asking, “What do I want to do with my life?” Encourage them to ask, “What do I want my next step to be?”
Don’t take rejection personally
Bo Bennett once said, “A rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success.” In the midst of possible rejections, remember rejection is not failure! Rejection is merely pushing you in a different direction. Urge your student to turn that rejection into motivation that will spur them on to become a more qualified candidate the next time around! They can focus on bettering their resume, joining different professional organizations, and saying yes to opportunities that will increase their skill levels.
If your student is having a difficult time pushing past their rejection or if their fear of rejection is holding them back from applying for different opportunities, encourage them to schedule an appointment with a Career Advisor at Smith Career Center. Our advisors have a wealth of knowledge, encouragement, and resources to help your student, as they overcome their past rejections or fear of future nos.
Create a schedule...that includes REST
When it comes to job and internship searches, the hardest part is getting started. To help them gain momentum, your student should create a schedule for when they will conduct certain aspects of their search. For example, they could spend one hour on Mondays applying to new jobs/internships, one hour on Tuesdays following up with past applications, and one hour on Thursdays updating their resume, LinkedIn, and cover page. Creating a schedule will not only motivate your student and create balance in their search, it will also allow for rest! Rest, in moderation, will allow your student to be able to sustain their search while also maintaining their overall wellness.
Identify your triggers
What underlying fears or circumstances are making the internship and job search stressful for your student? Is it that they have a crazy class schedule and are struggling to keep up with assignments, so thinking of adding one more interview or completing one more application is overwhelming? Do they believe that this semester is their only shot at getting their dream summer internship? Or if they don’t get that internship, it will mean they will fall behind? Whatever the underlying reason, it is important to identify triggers and root causes of stress to battle it in an efficient way. Career Advisors at the Smith Career Center can also help your student to uncover the root causes of their search anxiety.
Job and internship searches can be stressful but encourage your student to follow these tips to staying positive and persistent in their search for their next step.
Guest Author: Victoria Freiberg is a senior studying Psychology and Human Development at Virginia Tech. She is currently working as a Field Study student for Smith Career Center.
“What do I do if my major doesn’t align with my career field of interest?” Many students come across this question during their college years, but there’s no need to feel discouraged! There are plenty of options and resources available for your student, even if their major doesn’t seem to fit their dream field.
Does your student know what field they are interested in? Or do they have a general dislike for what they have seen so far within their major? The response to both questions is the same: Research!
If they know what field they want to go into, they could look up what requirements or qualifications they need to meet, what majors build a necessary skill set for that field, and what experiences could help them get their foot in the door.
If your student doesn’t know what field they want to go into, advise them to take some time researching what fields are interested in the skill set their major builds. You would be surprised by what some majors can do that seems outside of their field but actually align perfectly with their unique skills! Your student can also make an advising appointment with Career and Professional Development to take an assessment to help narrow down the search.
Build a network
How do roughly 80% of people find their jobs?1 Networking! Encourage your student to meet people in their field of interest or who have jobs that intrigue them. The Smith Career Center hosts information sessions with employers that can help your student start building this network. Professional organizations on campus are another great way to make connections and network within your field. You never know what opportunities could appear through making positive connections and building relationships!
Leverage experiences through resumes and interviews
What skills does your student have from other fields or experiences that could apply to their current field of interest? What skills have they learned that are useful in all fields? Marketing themselves can be a big part of breaking into a new field. Your student should take time in their interviews to explain how their past experiences, even if they don’t seem to apply directly, have taught them a lot of skills that can be useful in their current interest field!
Ask for Advice
Smith Career Center has great resources and years of experience that can help point your student in the right direction. Encouraging your student to make an appointment on Handshake to speak with a career advisor is a great way to help your student discover what options are out there for them!
1Adler, Lou. “New Survey Reveals 85% of All Jobs Are Filled Via Networking.” LinkedIn, LinkedIn, 29 Feb. 2016.
Winter break is a great time for your student to kick back, relax, and recover from the chaos of fall semester; however, a relaxing break doesn’t have to be a wasted break!
Continue the search
Fall semester might be over, but the job and internship search has merely begun! More free time over winter break means more time for your student to apply for jobs, call back employers they haven’t heard from in a while, research new opportunities, and even set up some interviews.
Add something to your resume
Is there an organization your student is passionate about? Why not volunteer with them over break! Interested in a specific career field? Why not shadow someone for a week! Your student can even reach out to past employers and ask if they can shadow someone in a different department. This will help them gain some diverse experience and continue to build that positive employer relationship.
Your student can also work on showing off some of their skills, or gaining a new one, by building a website, adding to their writing portfolio, starting a new project or finishing one that fell through the cracks.
Update your resume, LinkedIn, etc.
Has your student gotten behind in keeping up their resume? This can be the time they take to update their resume with any new skills, opportunities, or awards. They can even stop into the Smith Career Center before leaving for break to get some tips about what changes or updates to make. While they are at it, they can also take some time to update their LinkedIn profile and any portfolios they are forming.
Take a winter class
The winter semester is a time where your student can take a class outside of their field to learn something new or knock out a major requirement that will give them more free time during the semester to join a professional organization. Checking out winter semester study abroad opportunities is also a great way for your student to travel the world while ensuring they won’t miss out on any springtime Hokie experiences!
These tips aren’t merely helpful ways for your student to use their time wisely over winter break but can also be fun! So, why not encourage your student to get outside of their comfort zone and one step closer to their career goals!
Phone, video, in-person, all of the above: How does your student prepare for various types of interviews? Pass along this article to help your student discover the answer.
Tips to keep in mind for all types of interviews:
Be prepared. Don’t enter an interview empty-handed! First, do your research about the company: What do they do? What is one interesting fact about the company that drew you in? Secondly, prepare for common interview questions that could be asked: Tell me about yourself. Why are you a good fit for this position? Lastly, come prepared with at least two good questions that you can ask at the end of your interview: Tell me a little about why you chose to work for this company. What are some common challenges new employees encounter, and how do you recommend I prepare for them?
Say thank you! Always remember to thank the interviewer at the end of your interview, as well as send a follow-up thank-you email or note. This will go a long way in showing your appreciation and differentiating you from other candidates.
Phone Interview Tips:
Keep your resume, the job posting, and notes in front of you. One great perk of phone interviews is that you can have notes in front of you during the interview! You may find it helpful to bullet some answers to commonly asked questions or questions you intend to ask your interviewer. You can also have the job posting and your resume in front of you to reference throughout the course of the interview. But remember, even though these notes are super helpful, don’t read them verbatim – you shouldn’t sound like you are reading from a script!
Interview in a quiet place. Don’t pick a space where your roommate could walk in at any moment, unaware that you are on a very important call! Coffee shops, dining halls, and any public space in general are also no-go’s when it comes to phone interviews. Take time to find a quiet place without background noise where you can concentrate, be heard clearly, and easily hear what the interviewer is saying. Interview rooms in the Smith Career Center are a great option! You can reserve a room by calling (540) 231-6241.
Virtual Interview Tips:
Manage the background. Don’t make the mistake of having your roommate’s laundry hanging in the background or sitting in a place where people are constantly walking behind you. Control your background by making sure your back is facing a blank wall or a professional space with minimal distractions. This is another instance where reserving an interview room in the Smith Career Center is a great option.
Look directly into the camera at eye level. Don’t fall into the trap of looking at the picture on the screen instead of into the camera directly. A helpful trick is to move the box of your face up to the top of the screen near the camera. This allows you to monitor your appearance and gage your interviewer’s facial expressions while still making eye contact through the camera.
In-Person Interview Tips:
Be prompt. Take into account traffic, difficulty finding the interview room, and other things that may get in the way of being on time. Being prompt is an important first step to a great interview!
Be kind to everyone you meet. Your interview begins when you pull into the parking lot! Think about the receptionist, employees that walk by you in the waiting room, and the people you may meet on the elevator. How you treat them has the potential to get back to the hiring manager you came to speak to. Be kind, be respectful, and remember, your interview begins when you pull into the lot and ends when you leave the premises!
Smith Career Center has amazing resources to help you ace your interview! Our advising team can help you practice, give you interviewing tips, and help knock out some of those nerves before the big day. Learn how students can schedule an advising appointment. Good luck!