CPD News for Parents & Families
CPD eNews for parents and families articles
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.
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!
Is your student at a career crossroad? Maybe they are entering senior year but still are unsure of where their career path is taking them. Or maybe they are an underclassman who doesn’t even know what field to search for an internship in. No matter your student’s phase of life, we all at some point come to this crossroad. Here are a few questions that can help your student find clarity once they reach this fork in the road.
What does your student value?
Does your student value the individual? Or maybe the big picture? Maybe family comes first? Or maybe having the ability to move up the ladder trumps social opportunities? When facing the decision of what career to follow, it is important to take inventory of your values. Knowing what you value leads you to understand what career will bring the most joy and fulfillment. Encourage your student to take time to reflect on what they value by checking out these resources and self-assessments.
What are your student’s interests?
What are your students interests and hobbies? What are they passionate about? What issue can they not stop talking about? There are so many different jobs out there for every interest. Check out these self-assessments that help you discover your interests!
What is your student good at?
What skills does your student have? What do they excel in? What do professors, mentors, and club leaders affirm in them? Encourage your student to take these skills and run with them! If your student is unsure of what they are good at, push them to talk with professors, peers, or even yourself. Everyone is good at something, sometimes it just takes a little encouragement from others to be able to take notice of and accept these skills. At Career and Professional Development we have many reflection activities to help your student uncover their hidden gifts, so encourage them to visit their college’s Career Advisor.
I deeply value people – specifically I’m drawn to one-on-one or small group situations where I can speak into people’s lives. I’m also very interested in different cultures and love working with diverse teams. Communication and organization have always been some of my top skills. These values, interests, and skills led me to my internship last summer on the Global Sales Enablement and Effectiveness Team for Ellucian. Not only was I able to work on a small and diverse team, but I was given the opportunity to take my love of culture and apply my skills in organization and communication to create training and motivational resources for a team from around the globe!
This intersection of values, interests, and skills led me to a job that at first I didn’t even know existed, but quickly fell in love with! Your student can also find a career path that will excite them. Taking care to recognize their values, interests, and skills is a great first step down the right path.
Guest Author: Summer Clayton
Peer Career Advisor | Career and Professional Development at Virginia Tech
B.S. Business Information Technology | B.S. Management | 2020
Career Fair Dos and Don’ts
It’s that time of year again when the leaves are changing, the days get colder, and you may start to wonder, “Does my student have a job or internship opportunity for the summer?” While this may be your student’s goal, the path to employment is sometimes unclear and overwhelming. Your student may find opportunities through Handshake, networking, workshops, or career fairs. In my own search for employment, I’ve found career fairs very valuable for my interests. Career fairs are especially unique because hundreds of companies come to campus with the goal to hire Virginia Tech students. How great does that sound? Below you’ll find some tips on how your student can stand out from the crowd at the fairs!
DO: Encourage your student to get their resume reviewed by a professional, such as the Career Center
DON’T: Use the first resume template found on Google
DO: Emphasize the importance of knowing which companies are attending and researching them beforehand
DON’T: Show up unprepared and uninformed
Many employers visit Virginia Tech each year, so it’s impossible for your student to talk to every single one. Encourage them to prioritize their time, using resources like Handshake or the specific career fair websites, to know who is coming, when they will be there, and the location of each fair.
DO: Encourage your student to prepare a customized 30-second introduction
DON’T: Come unprepared with nothing to say
A great way for your student to leave a good impression is to have a polished 30-second introduction to describe themselves, a valuable past experience, and communicate their career interests and goals.
DO: Encourage them to wear business professional attire
DON’T: Roll out of bed and come in your pajamas or sweats
Your student should aim to look their best! Dress codes vary by industry and fair. When in doubt it is better to over dress. If your student does not have professional attire, have them mark their calendars for Career Outfitters. At this event, students can get gently used professional wear for free. Padfolios also add a great touch and are a convenient place to hold resumes and handouts and to take notes.
DO: Follow up with the recruiter you talked to
DON’T: Wait to hear back
Your student should try to follow up with the representative they spoke to, if they have the necessary contact information. It is a great opportunity for them to reiterate their interest in the company and position, ask any clarifying questions, and to help the recruiter remember them. Not everyone will complete this final, but extremely important, step, so it will leave even more of an impression.
DO: Encourage your student to stop by the Career Center for any additional tips
We can’t wait to help your student prepare for the upcoming fairs!
New: Introducing Hokie Mentorship Connect for Undergraduates and VT Alums
Submitted by: Donna Cassell Ratcliffe, Director of Career and Professional Development
Hello, I am Donna Cassell Ratcliffe, the director of Career and Professional Development, and I’d like to share with you an exciting new initiative that has been a dream of Dr. Timothy Sands when he became Virginia Tech’s president – a mentorship program for undergraduate students with VT alumni.
During the undergraduate years we believe that it is important for students to be able to connect with people who have been through their current situation or are where they aspire to be. For example, wouldn’t it be great if a student who is the first in their family to go to college, or is a student athlete or is even a member of the Corps of Cadets could talk to a VT graduate who took that same path during college in order to get their unique insights. Or perhaps a sophomore would like to ask someone what it is like to be a city manager, an anthropologist, a dentist or even a social media designer before making key decisions about what classes to take and/or career to pursue. What about getting advice about the best strategies to pursue an internship or job with a specific company or government agency?
Career and Professional Development, along with our friends from Alumni Relations, are excited about a new initiative to unite Virginia Tech undergraduate students with alumni for career-related support via an online platform to initiate formal and informal mentoring relationships. Hokie Mentorship Connect will be launched during the Fall 2019 semester. The program will exist to promote fellowship and networking for career development purposes. As a result open lines of communication will be formed and meaningful relationships will be established between multiple generations of Hokies. This mentorship platform will offer students three options to participate:
- Structured Mentorship Program
Sophomores, juniors and seniors can take advantage of forming a 6 month mentorship relationship with a VT graduate of their choice – perhaps someone who is in the same major, in their career field of interest, or someone with a similar background. Together they set goals and pursue them by communicating via the video-chat and messaging features provided within the platform. Opportunities may even emerge for participants to meet face-to-face! Continuing the relationship after the required six months will be voluntary.
- Flash Mentoring
A “flash mentoring” opportunity is available for students who would like to get advice by approaching any of the alums in the program with a single question or conduct an informational interview. A series of inquiries from a student to an alum may include asking about the organization where they work, requesting a resume consult, having questions about their particular career field, or requesting advice about the alum’s geographic location.
- Discussion Board Groups
There are industry groups for student and alums to engage in discussions about opportunities, issues and trends in the field. Any member can post a question and other members can provide opinions, experiences, perspectives and advice.
The condensed version of the six month mentorship program was piloted during the spring 2019 semester with 30 mentorship pairs. This enabled us to assess the program orientation, guidelines, assignments, and the software platform. Feedback we received from student mentees revealed that their mentors:
- gave them guidance as they prepared for job fairs
- encouraged them while selecting a second academic major
- shared real world information about their career fields
- gave advice about how to find an internship
- provided tips regarding the best ways to position themselves while going through the graduate and professional school application process
Allow me to share my own experience with the Hokie Mentorship Connect pilot program. Being a Hokie alumna allowed me the privilege of serving as a mentor to a transfer student and I found value in:
- having direct exposure to diversity of thought, style, personality and culture from my mentee
- the ability to share valuable professional experience and information that I wish that I had known when I was going through the same process
- another opportunity to embrace UT PROSIM as a way of life as I give back to Virginia Tech by serving in this uniquely important role
It is important to remember that not everyone has a linear career path and Hokie Mentorship Connect can help bring exposure to unknown possibilities for our students. I hope that you will encourage your student to participate or even serve as a mentor yourself if you are a VT alum. We are very excited about this new opportunity to forge relationships within the Hokie Nation!