Campus News

Career planning during COVID-19

Graduate Stephanie Sortino pictured in front of the bronze Buffalo near the Center for the arts on UB's North Campus. Her graduation cap reads, "Quarantine Graduate I mastered it!".

Recent UB graduate Stephanie Sortino recommends using Career Services’ virtual practice interview sessions. Career Services has also helped her with her cover letter and resume.

By CHARLES ANZALONE

Published July 22, 2020

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Portrait of Arlene Kaukus, director of Career Services.
“[C]commit to continuing your efforts, using your networks, remaining open-minded. It is only a matter of time before your efforts will result in that offer. ”
Arlene Kaukus, director
Career Services

Students pursuing career paths need to remain hopeful during the uncertainty and disruption of COVID-19, understanding that while it may take longer, career success comes with thoughtful, intentional focus.

That’s the message from Arlene Kaukus, director of career services, who says that while the obstacles of finding a job and staying on a career track certainly are more difficult, there are things students can do to help them achieve their goals.

“Although some traditional career paths are on hold or slowed down, there are opportunities,” says Kaukus. ‘You need a new game plan to access them, know where they are and find the best way to be a candidate.”

Kaukus compiled some tips for students and other job-seekers hoping to find a way through the COVID-19 puzzle:

  • Dedicate time to developing and cultivating your network of helpers, resources and mentors.
  • Use the resources of your career office to develop your network and explore the resources within your alumni network.
  • While you are living through this unusual time when you may have more availability of time, use it wisely. Take time to develop new skills that enhance your resume and portfolio. Take courses or certifications within your expense boundaries, and build that skill portfolio.
  • Research what companies and organizations are hiring in your geographic area or interest. Use your career office as a resource for this type of information. For example, UB’s Bullseye powered by Handshake highlights “Who is Hiring?”
  • Seek out opportunities to expand your experience — even if they are not paid — that give you the hands-on experiences employers are looking for. These opportunities can be project-based and afford you an opportunity to contribute to producing something tangible.
  • Engage in professional associations in your area of study or career interest as a way of meeting and expanding your network, as well as learning about what companies are in the sector.
  • Remain open-minded, flexible and resilient. What you thought would be an opportunity may not be viable right now. However, with an open mind, you will not overlook something new that comes along.

Patience, preparation and prospects

Recent UB graduate Stephanie Sortino has put Kaukus’ advice into action. Sortino, 23, received a master’s degree in higher education administration in May. She had a scheduled interview in March for a job as a resident director at a nearby college, but that was canceled when the college froze all hiring for the foreseeable future.

No doubt, Sortino says, recent months have been rough. She is looking for a job in student life in a college setting. Many universities have postponed any plans to hire.

Since then, Sortino has adopted “80%” of Kaukus’ suggestions, career services officials say. Her hard work, patience and preparation have paid off with job prospects. Starting in the beginning of July, positions have begun to reopen, says Sortino. She has applied to between 30 and 40 job postings, and anticipates hearing back in the next month on these applications.

“At times it can be hard to keep my spirits up, but I keep reminding myself I am qualified, I am good enough, and the fact there is a global pandemic happening is beyond my control,” she says.

“The best thing I can do personally and professionally is keep my head up, continue to apply for jobs, and continue to tweak those cover letters and resumes, and it only takes one to stick for me to succeed.”

Sortino now lives in Rochester with her parents while she searches for a job. She has used Bullseye Powered by Handshake, the UB version of a nationwide job-postings site, along with other job sources, such as Indeed.com and potential employer websites. She has also found leads through UB networking connections (Sortino was an intern in UB’s Career Services Office before graduation.).

She received a bachelor’s degree in business management from St. John Fisher College, where she has stayed connected with professionals for networking and mentorship advice.

UB’s Office of Career Services and professional connections have helped immensely. She has had her cover letter and resume reviewed and edited once a month, and recommends using Career Services’ virtual practice interview sessions.

“It has been definitely discouraging,” she says of her job search so far, “because a lot of positions I’m qualified for are not leading to positive results. Two things that have kept my optimism up have been the support of my colleagues at UB and family, as well as continually learning and engaging with the job market.”

Kaukus reminds students the importance of staying optimistic.

“Just as Stephanie said, it only takes one to stick for you to succeed,” she says. “So commit to continuing your efforts, using your networks, remaining open-minded. It is only a matter of time before your efforts will result in that offer.”