News articles for Hokie parents and families
from Career and Professional Development
December 2021: Winter break to-do list
As students prepare for winter break, we’ve created a winter break bucket list to help students use their time wisely when not relaxing and taking care of their well-being. We’ve highlighted some of our bucket list suggestions and resources below.
Update your resume
- After completing fall semester, students may need to update their GPA information on their resumes. They also may want to add projects completed this past semester, along with work or leadership updates. For more resume tips, students can use our resume and CV guide.
Research career options
- What do students do after graduating with a particular major? We survey new grads to learn their first jobs. You can view what they tell us: job titles and employers, by undergraduate major.
- Also see resources for exploring and researching careers.
Do a mock interview
- InterviewStream is web-based, and available to VT students 24/7/365, for practice interviews.
- Students can also schedule a practice interview with an advisor.
Work on your elevator pitch
- To gear up for spring 2022 career fairs, students want to be pitch perfect with their introductions. Students can use the worksheet on page 57 in our Career Planning Guide to finetune their introductions.
- For more tips, view this CandidCareer video about the elevator pitch.
Check out graduate schools
- For students considering graduate school, we’ve collected resources to assist with their research of various programs, and more, including pre-professional advising.
Set up your LinkedIn profile
- LinkedIn provides a LinkedIn profile checklist for college students.
Develop a skill
- The LinkedIn Learning training library is available to students, faculty, and staff, and includes over 69,000 videos relating to a variety of skills.
Start searching for internships
- Students can use our internship search resources, which include Handshake, CareerShift, GoinGlobal / USA Careers, and much more.
- For skills to be successful as employers screen applicants, students can use our job and internship search guide.
November 2021: Gaining experience: a student's success story
Laura Cantagallo, Public Relations Major, Career and Professional Development Marketing & Events Intern
As a college student, one of the things I was always encouraged to do by my parents and advisors was get hands-on internship experience. Easier said than done, right? Trying to even find internships let alone actually get them is a daunting and tedious process. However, it’s not as bad as you might think. Here’s how I networked, locked down some of my internships, and gained the experience that got me to where I am today.
The first internship is always the hardest. When COVID-19 hit, it seemed like no one was hiring any interns, mostly due to hiring freezes. I was constantly scrolling through Indeed and LinkedIn, hoping I could find a company that was taking interns. I resorted to having to ask my parents for connections, and that summer, I ended up writing blog posts for one of my dad’s coworkers at the Red Cross. My first tip is to always use the resources around you: parents, neighbors, friends' parents, older siblings, or anyone that could potentially aid you on your journey. Odds are someone is willing to help you, even if it is just shadowing or doing small tasks for free. It’s a great way to make connections and get your foot in the door in the professional world.
Speaking of networking, it is so important to cultivate and work on your LinkedIn profile. This is where I found 90% of my internships. Put in the work to create a professional profile, add your skills and experiences, connect with anyone you might know (fellow students, professors, employers, etc.) and start building your online presence and professional network. This will make you more appealing to employers if you happen to apply for a job or internship through LinkedIn.
This past summer, I worked in Washington, D.C., for Events DC, a company that hosts conventions, and sporting and cultural events. I worked as a marketing and communications intern and got to write news features and talking points for events, run social media and create content, and more. I found this internship through the LinkedIn job feature. You can type in a few key words for what you’re looking for, and the location, and it will give you a list within range of what you’re looking for. I applied, got an interview, and eventually got hired. This made the internship application process much easier and less overwhelming for me.
It is also crucial to take the time to build your resume and have several people look over it. In my case, my internship supervisor and both my parents looked over mine, as well as one of my advisors. They gave me corrections and tips to make it better. Your resume is so important because it is one of the first things employers look at when viewing your application. There needs to be important and concise information that gets straight to the point and is easy to read. There are several resources for resume building through Career and Professional Development at Virginia Tech. I also recommend using these when writing a cover letter, which some employers require as well, and practicing your interviewing skills. This is a huge part of the internship process. Practice eye contact, speaking clearly and slowly, and just having a good, flowing conversation. You can practice with a friend, in front of the mirror, and with Career and Professional Development.
One of my last tips is to be patient. It was so frustrating when I was looking for my first internship and was unsuccessful. However, with a strong resume and LinkedIn profile, you will find the right internship! Offer your skills to anyone you may know that can help you get on your feet. Once you get your first internship or professional experience, a lot of it starts to fall into place. Be confident in yourself and your abilities.
October 2021: Campus internEXP
Experiential learning is something we have always been passionate about at Career and Professional Development. However, when we learned of Virginia Tech’s goal to increase experiential learning opportunities for students, we began researching and brainstorming ways that we could build on the programs that we currently have to make these experiences more accessible to all Virginia Tech students. This is how Campus internEXP came to life. Campus internEXP is an on-campus internship program where students have the opportunity to work alongside a full-time faculty or staff member at Virginia Tech to develop both professional and industry-related skills.
Campus internEXP is a high-impact educational practice, which means that it allows students to apply their learning to real life by making connections, reflecting and integrating their learning. This program is beneficial for college students from many backgrounds, especially those from underserved and underrepresented backgrounds, who have not traditionally had access to these high-impact practices. Campus internEXP creates access by providing students with an on-campus opportunity to learn from our own faculty and staff who represent almost every industry that a student may be interested in.
While a student is engaged in their internship, they will also be enrolled in a zero-credit internship course that will provide them with the academic learning piece of their experience. They will set learning objectives, reflect on their experiences, intentionally develop professional competencies and evaluate their performance, all with support from the professional staff at Career and Professional Development. In addition, they will have an opportunity to engage with and gain insights from students across campus who are also participating in Campus internEXP.
In fall 2021, we have 19 students from various academic majors participating in Campus internEXP. This semester we were able to offer students both semester and year-long internship opportunities with 10 supervisors from nine different university departments. The departments represented are Engineering Education, Virginia Cooperative Extension Administration, Center for Educational Networks and Impacts, VT Engage, Computer Science, Housing and Residence Life, Career and Professional Development, and University Libraries. Our hope is to continue to expand and diversify the internship opportunities offered through Campus internEXP.
One of our current supervisors, Niki Hazuda with Engineering Education, truly believes in the importance of experiential learning for a student’s professional development. She says, “As a communications professional who was supported and guided by mentors throughout my academic career, I strongly believe in providing this experience for future generations. Hosting an intern through Campus internEXP is the perfect way for me to fulfill this mission. I can support a student's academic and career growth, encourage their professional development, and achieve my department work goals all in one program! InternEXP is also an excellent experiential learning opportunity; co-curricular programs have been shown to improve a student's sense of belonging in the campus community, in addition to strengthening a student's employability after graduation. Campus internEXP makes it convenient for students to gain professional internship experience without having to leave campus.”
The Campus nternEXP recruitment student cycle for spring 2022 begins with required information sessions offered from October 14 to 27, 2021. Students should attend one session, and can view exact dates and times at Campus internEXP information sessions. Each session date/time is linked to complete information in Handshake where students can register. After students have attended an information session, they will be able to access the Campus internEXP job postings in Handshake, which can be viewed during the application period, which is October 25 through November 9, 2021. If you think your student may be interested in Campus internEXP, they can read all about the program, and if they wish to speak with an advisor about the program, they can make an appointment on Handshake.
September 2021: 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: 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: Current job market 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.
April 2021: 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.
March 2021: Employers are hiring
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!
February 2021: How to network during the pandemic
By Guest Author: Keyara Johnson, Hokie Mentorship Connect Ambassador
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!
Contact for questions about CPD news for parents and families:
Ms. Jen Heinold
Career & Professional Development