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Preparing to enter the workforce right out of college is a daunting task for most people. Combine that with the COVID-19 pandemic causing a weak job market, and it becomes even more of a challenge.

Bethani Burkhart, director of career and academic development at Hiram College in Hiram; Julie Jones, career development instructor at Ursuline College in Pepper Pike; and John Schlesinger, interim director of Hiatt and director of career development at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., said the job market may be slower than normal, but there are still job opportunities out there for graduates.

Schlesinger said job opportunities may come in unconventional forms, and graduating students should still jump at the opportunity.

“There are still a lot of employers that are hiring right now,” Schlesinger said. “And so, things that have changed for the students is helping them go into the process, but also to widen their net. Remote work has exploded, and allows people look for opportunities outside of a geographic region that they might have been interested in before. We’re also seeing a lot of really cool opportunities for students. We’ve received virtual volunteer opportunities, paid micro internships, short-term internships due to remote projects. There are a lot of new ways students can still gain experience during this time right now.”

Although Jones said the number of internships last year were lower than usual, it was still more than she expected during a year that was heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There were more opportunities than I thought there would be,” Jones said.”Because most people did a really good job of changing to remote opportunities for students, which was great. There are advantages and disadvantages to it. Obviously people still got experience, but they didn’t get to experience being enveloped in that culture of the employer, which I think is important for working.”

With much of society’s communication shifting to an online and virtual format, Hiram College has shifted their curriculum to teach their students how to adjust in that new environment.

“In the past, we definitely would have focused a lot on in person interviewing and maybe the phone interview, things like that,” Burkhart said. “So, obviously we’re doing a lot more with virtual interviewing, virtual networking, and just really stressing to the students how important these things already are. Like networking and making sure your resume is perfect, and things like that.”

Schlesinger added online interview etiquette has become increasingly important in the past year.

“When you meet someone in person, you think just about how you’re presented professionally,” Schlesinger said. “To somebody online, you have to think about ‘Where is the camera placed? How does my background look? Can they see me making eye contact with the camera on the other end?’ You can’t read body language in the same way virtually as you can in-person. But there are a couple of advantages to the virtual environment. You can have more notes, you can be prepared with more talking points as you’re working with somebody.”

Being primarily a nursing college, Jones said that Ursuline College is one of the few places that has had a high success rate when it comes to students finding jobs.

“The majority of our students are nurses, and we have a 100 percent placement rate, because obviously COVID has increased the need for nurses,” Jones said. “So, we have probably been affected less than a lot of other institutions that serve possibly nonprofits who have lost funding or different areas that have really been hit hard. Like hospitality management and those kinds of things. We don’t have a lot of graduates that go into those kinds of things. So I think we have probably been affected a little less when it comes to the COVID crunch on jobs.”

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