After the COVID-19 pandemic shut down campus in March, students got a taste of virtual learning. Nobody wants to sit on Zoom all day, but at least we gained experience for the fall. But what about prospective graduates looking to begin their careers in a new economy?
Traditionally, students follow some structure when planning internships and other opportunities to gain experience for full-time employment. However, the pandemic disrupted these plans for many (myself included), and students may have trouble aligning their current path with altered expectations for the future.
Job searching is already a ruthless and nerve-wracking game. The traditional rules have been upended, and candidates are adapting on the fly. To aid students searching for jobs, UT’s career centers must require employers to provide up-to-date information for students to better understand their new expectations.
A national unemployment rate double the pre-pandemic figure combined with uncertain expectations saturates the playing field and muddles the picture for students whose futures have been affected by the coronavirus.
Many students are curious about what new skills employers want to see and how their canceled opportunities will affect them going forward. Gathering FAQs from students to be directly addressed by employers gives students well-defined boundaries to work with during unprecedented times.
Employer profiles attempting to fulfill this need already exist in some colleges, including the Cockrell School’s Engineering Career Assistance Center.
“ECAC encourages employers to provide information to students through our system, which can include text, images, links to social media and external sites, and videos,” said Michael Powell, director of the Engineering Career Assistance Center.
However, in my own search for internships, none of the companies I viewed had informational videos, much less any specific information addressing recruiting in the age of COVID-19. This information needs to be formally requested by all colleges in order to provide students with up-to-date information.
“It’s hard to know where to look (when job searching),” environmental science junior Sam DeGavre said. “I often feel lost in a sea of people. Without a detailed online profile, odds are you’ll never find what you’re looking for.”
Additionally, videos from local recruiters provide the chance to put a face to a company. Creating a point of contact for students further bridges connections.
While career fairs have typically been the best opportunity for students to find employment, this year’s virtual format brings new challenges. Many students rely on face-to-face communication in order for their personalities to shine and appeal to prospective employers.
“I would struggle (in) virtual recruiting,” civil engineering junior Erick Lopez said. “There’s less of the X-factor that lets me express my personality. (Having specific information) would clarify what they want and help us make informed decisions based on fit of personality and culture.”
For employers, fitting the position is a key factor when seeking candidates, and being able to judge a match before a formal interaction allows students to narrow their search. Connecting with a person instead of just the name of a company also humanizes the process, closing the gap formed by the move to online. Students will feel more comfortable navigating an unfamiliar process.
UT boasts high rates of employment among its graduates. If the University hopes to continue a trend of post-graduation success, it must help students adapt during this tough time. Improving the information available to students benefits all parties and offers us a better chance to start changing the world.
Lee is a civil engineering junior from Plano, Texas.