Clark students may have left campus, but the work of preparing them for meaningful careers goes on. To meet the challenge posed by COVID-19, the Career Connections Center, part of the LEEP Student Success Network, has created a virtual community to help students connect with advisers, mentors, and alumni who can help them continue their career explorations remotely.
“As students conclude their virtual semester off campus, many are facing uncertainty about summer research opportunities, internships and post-graduation employment,” says Donna Curry, senior executive director. “We recognize many students may not have the bandwidth at this very moment. But no matter what stage they’re at in terms of summer planning and beyond, our core message to our students — and employers — is that we at the Career Connections Center are here and want to help, as do our alumni.”
Curry recently heard from an accomplished mathematics and computer science major about his experiences seeking employment in the COVID-19 era. He told her he had been interviewed by a number of companies, and one in particular was prepared to give him an offer — but it paused all hiring until the economic situation improves.
“We will support him the best we can to make sure he has a good outcome,” Curry says of the student. “I’ve been so impressed by how empathetic and committed the CCC staff is to our students. They are working with them on contingency plans, thinking creatively about how to build experiences over the summer and encouraging students to check in with us as they hear from employers.”
The staff of the Career Connections Center is offering students guidance, connections, and opportunities “by leveraging our most important resource — our alumni and parent community,” Curry says. The Center has grown its social media reach and expanded content to include “pop-up advising” featuring alumni who advise students on topics including how to stay productive and optimistic this summer and how to network virtually.
Curry adds that ClarkCONNECT, the University’s virtual community with more than 2,000 alumni, is an essential component of Clark’s student support network, “especially in these uncertain times.”
The Career Trek program offers interactive field trips where students meet with alumni at their companies. Here, they learn what skills are needed in various industries, expand their professional networks, and increase their awareness of career possibilities. In spring 2019, students visited Hubspot, a content marketing firm in Cambridge, Mass. This year, the “trek” was a Zoom conference with two alumni employees and a talent acquisition specialist of Ceres, a sustainability nonprofit in Boston.
“While our original intention for this engagement was a Career Trek to Ceres headquarters in Boston, our alumni guests from Ceres were more than willing to be flexible and transition to a virtual engagement to connect with students,” says Rosie Gallant, director of employer engagement. “Dozens of Clark students have applied to internship and entry-level positions at Ceres, and those who participated in our virtual trek got the added bonus of insight from two alumni with sustainability-focused careers, and unique tips from a talent-acquisition specialist on how to make their résumé and experience stand out.”
Gallant notes that the Ceres program was recorded and sent to students who were unable to attend. The program also will be posted on the Center’s website and social media channels.
Career Connections Center advisers have continued meeting one-on-one with students. “Our team of advisers has put together a package of support materials to help students adapt their job and internship search during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Michelle Flint, director of career development. “We’re also meeting virtually with students every day.”
Before social-distancing measures took hold, Marima Oka ’23 worked with Flint in person to develop her résumé and to begin searching for summer internships. Their conversations continued over Zoom once COVID-19 forced a change in operations. “I was worried about how the career center would operate once campus closed, so I was happy to get the notification that services would be available virtually,” Oka says.
Flint helped Oka prepare for an interview for a Brooklyn Project Healthcare internship (a program founded by a fellow Clarkie, Dr. Lewis Goldfrank ’63). “The interview was supposed to be in person but had to be held online,” Oka says. Online mock interviews with Flint got her ready and relaxed with the process. “It wasn’t stressful at all” to interview remotely.
“Michelle had asked questions I wouldn’t have ever thought of,” Oka says — questions she was then asked during the interview. The preparation boosted her confidence, she was eventually offered the internship.
The biochemistry and molecular biology major plans to pursue a career as a pediatrician. She is still on campus, as traveling to her home in Japan is impossible right now. And while Oka is eager to begin her internship in June, she knows “nothing is certain” in the time of COVID-19.
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