The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted nearly every aspect of daily life across the country. College students and soon-to-be graduates may find themselves in a tough position as they look toward the future — from canceled internships to lost summer jobs to an unprecedented switch to online learning.
The Daily Tar Heel's Katie Clark spoke with Tierney Bates, interim executive director of University Career Services and interim assistant vice chancellor for special projects, about what students can do if their plan for the future has been turned on its head by the pandemic's impact. This interview has been edited for content and clarity.
Daily Tar Heel: What advice can you offer to students whose post-grad or summer work plans have been canceled, postponed or otherwise disrupted by COVID-19?
Tierney Bates: Do know we are still working on your behalf at University Career Services. There's a couple of things in place: one, keep networking. Keep engaged with your employer or person whose organization was going to give you an internship. Just because they’ve canceled it doesn’t mean they’re not still interested in having you do internships. It’s just a matter of, this is a health crisis. Once we address this health crisis, there will still be jobs, opportunities that were on the plate for those students when they had them before. They will still most likely be there afterwards.
The second piece is to still keep your skill sets going. Ask if your organization is willing to do a micro-internship from a virtual space. Then they’re still giving you the skill sets that you’ll need, you’ll still be able to have an internship that you can put on your resume.
Third... there are companies that told us they are hiring, and they are committed to those they have already hired. I also tell students to be flexible and to look at other alternatives. It only makes you more well-rounded and you might fall into a space that you never knew about. You might have to pivot for the short-term to hit a long-term goal.
DTH: How can students find out about other work opportunities?
TB: Every student has access to Handshake at UNC... I believe right now there are over 10,000 jobs posted on Handshake by different companies. You can go on there and look at who is still hiring, who is still doing internships, and you can still apply.
Secondly, go to our website. We have everything listed about what we’re doing in the virtual space. We are still doing one-on-one appointments virtually. We are still doing virtual job fairs. We can still do resume reviews and mock interviews from a virtual standpoint. There is no need for a student to worry that they can’t have access to anything. Sign up for a virtual job fair.
DTH: If a student had a job lined up for summer or fall and COVID-19 has canceled those plans, can students contact Career Services to get help?
TB: You should reach out to us and report if your work plans have been canceled. Sometimes we can have a conversation with the employer. As far as jobs are concerned, I haven’t heard many students say that their offers were revoked or adjusted. I have heard that employers are honoring jobs but the start date might be pushed back. It is industry by industry, but when all of this is over we will see a huge hiring push in industries overall.
DTH: Let’s say a student’s grade falls during the remote working period. Should they be worried about this impacting their job search?
Dr. Bates: I would tell you this: grades are not going to be the only thing that employers are looking for. We’re at Chapel Hill, so everybody is smart. They want to see outside of those grades, too. What are your leadership abilities? What critical thinking skills do you have? Can you work with groups and in project management? Through this virus we are all home, but we’re still working together as a team, just virtually. How can you work through a crisis, just like the one we are all in now?
DTH: What advice can you give to students who may be doing remote interviews over the phone or through a platform like Zoom?
Dr. Bates: First and foremost, reach out to University Career Services. Make a one-on-one virtual appointment to practice a mock interview with us. Find a quiet place to do the interview. Make sure the space has a blank wall, nothing crazy-looking in the background.
Still dress like you would dress in an in-person interview. Wear a shirt, a tie, proper attire overall. Be precise on your answers because they want to get through all their questions about you. Make sure to practice, to put your best foot forward and to follow up with the employer.
You can give them a thank you call or thank you email about how much you’re excited to work for their organization. Even if you’re doing an interview with a company that you don’t fully want to work for, do it anyway. It's good practice and you will get more precise and comfortable with interviewing, virtually and overall.
DTH: Is there any other advice you’d like to share with students?
Dr. Bates: Keep your network strong. If you lost an opportunity, still follow up with the company or person. That loss doesn’t mean the opportunity is not there anymore, it means that, because of this health crisis, it is on pause. Ask about micro-internships. Also, use UCS. We’re here for you. Let us get you ready now.