CPD news articles for parents and families
September 2021 News: Preparing for career fairs
There is something exciting about fall in Blacksburg. The trees turn beautiful colors and the energy on campus has returned. September also means career fairs. While career fairs are only one way to find opportunities, they can be a good way to meet prospective employers, depending on your student’s career interests.
What will career fairs look like this fall?
Most career fairs will be hybrid (have both an in-person and a virtual component). A hybrid format allows employers to connect with students in a variety of ways, regardless of recruiting approach or company travel policy. It also allows students to connect with a wider variety of employers and choose the method that best meets their needs.
Why should your student attend a career fair early in their college career?
Attending a career fair before actively seeking an opportunity helps your student practice navigating this style of recruiting. Students might consider practicing with both formats this fall.
- Brainstorm key experiences and what skills connect with those experiences. Students should think broadly; even seemingly unrelated experiences demonstrate transferable skills (e.g. communication, leadership, etc.).
- Practice marketing experiences in a brief way that prompts follow-up questions (i.e. some details of an experience + key skills learned/utilized).
- Consider what makes them different from other candidates. Students may have similar experiences but how they approach an experience makes it unique. (e.g. strong communicator, relationship builder, etc.)
- Create or update their resume. Sign-up for a 15-minute mini-appointment to have it reviewed by a career advisor.
- Research companies of interest using social media, information on Handshake, company websites, etc. What do they do? What makes them unique?
- Prepare good questions; go deeper than “What would an intern do?” Good questions show the employer the student has prepared, and leads to a more interesting conversation.
- Develop your 30-second introduction (elevator pitch) to break the ice and start a conversation. Consider how your introduction might be different in person compared to in an online setting.
What makes in-person fairs different than virtual fairs?
The information shared is the same for both in person and virtual fairs. However, the way information is conveyed will look different. Virtual fairs utilize a chat box or video chat so students should break up information into small pieces of text. Employers will see the resume that students upload to their profile.
Conversations during in-person events are still short but have more back and forth, making talking points and questions important. Regardless of medium, the goal is to make a connection with the employer and showcase what makes somebody a good candidate.
If your student has questions as they prepare for career fairs, 15-minute mini-appointments are a great place to start. Good luck at the fall career fairs!
August 2021 news
Introduction to CPD services for students
Welcome to the 2021-2022 school year. The staff in Career and Professional Development are excited to welcome students back to campus and are here to help in all aspects of their career journeys.
With so many major and career options, it’s no wonder many students aren’t sure what their future holds. We encourage students to discover more about themselves using assessments and our many online resources. Our office can even help students prepare for graduate or health professions programs.
It’s important to gain experience through resume-builders like internships, undergraduate research, study abroad, student organizations, job shadowing, volunteering, etc. Students will want to create a Handshake account as one way to search for opportunities. Not only are these great ways for students to build a resume and become competitive for other opportunities down the road, but trying out different activities can be a great way to explore as well.
Employers and graduate programs are looking for applicants who can demonstrate they are professionally competent. Here are some specific competencies that stand out:
- Teamwork and interpersonal skills
- Professionalism and productivity
- Creativity and problem-solving skills
- Global perspective
- Digital fluency
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 competencies 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.
Whatever else your students need to get where they want to go, we are here to help. On everything from the internship and job search process to resume and cover letter reviews, our office can provide guidance. If students are worried about interviews or how to know if a job offer is a good one, we’re here for that too!
We will have appointments available via phone, Zoom, and in-person and we look forward to working with your students!
May 2021 news
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 look 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!
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!