Right people for the job

Career Services at UND stands ready to help students, alumni navigate uncertain job market

UND archival image.

As a pandemic rattles economies across the globe, newly minted graduates entering the workforce are apprehensive.

Mary Feller, a career coach at UND Career Services, said she has heard from students from many majors and industry backgrounds who are concerned about applying for jobs or finding summer internships.

Mary Feller

In some cases, job and internship offers have been rescinded as the economic outlook trends downward for the foreseeable future.

But with Career Services fully enabled to serve students and alumni online, Feller and her team are trying to get the word out: companies are still hiring.

“Companies out there are still hiring for interns and full-time employees,” Feller told UND Today. “We’re telling students to not lose that perspective, and to be strategic and persistent in the way they’re applying.”

Ilene Odegard, director of UND Career Services, recognized that it may take a long time for the economy to bounce back from the ongoing public health crisis, but she had three words for students who might be anxious amid this new reality: patience, flexibility and creativity.

“Although someone’s career or dream job may be on hold, they still have the ability to keep growing in that direction,” Odegard said.

Now, perhaps more than ever, the expertise of UND’s career coaches can help keep students motivated to stand out among pools of applicants and develop valuable skills that employers are looking for.

Still helping, just differently

In the past month alone, the Career Services office has handled more than 100 documents submitted by students and soon-to-be-grads. The documents are resumes and cover letters in need of a second opinion.

“We’ve definitely been busy,” said Feller. “Some people are content with feedback in the form of tracked changes on a document, but others want to follow up with a one-on-one Zoom interview.”

Working remotely, the Career Services team is doing what it always has, just differently. The concerns of getting a job or finding the right internship have always been there, for UND students and new alumni, but the coronavirus pandemic has placed more of an emphasis on how to recover and regroup should plans fall through.

“I think they understand that the environment is more competitive,” Feller said. “Companies are hiring, but there may be more people out there seeking the same number of positions.”

In the time when Feller was applying for jobs, it was customary to print off 30 resumes and send them to 30 different employers. Now that’s less likely to be a winning strategy, she tells advice-seeking students.

Many companies now use screening systems that process candidates’ resumes and cover letters and search for keywords that match job postings. UND Career Services is upping its game and getting students connected to Jobscan – a site that lets applicants more closely tune their documents to what the employer (and their screening system) is looking for.

“You have to talk their language,” Feller remarked. “You have to talk about what they’re looking for, not necessarily the things you’re most proud of, but the things that they feel you would contribute to the position.”

Also, in a time when internship or job offers might be rescinded, the Career Services team is encouraging applicants to make note of the offer on future resumes.

“It shouldn’t be something listed under their experiences, but they should specifically mention they were offered a position that was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Odegard said.

Feller agreed, saying that it’s important for others to know that the individual was sought-after for a relevant position.

“I’ve found that as students are obviously distraught when something has been rescinded, they are being resilient in their continued applications and efforts to rebound,” Feller said.

New opportunities

Now that for-credit internships need to be held remotely, organizations and companies – especially locally – have been coordinating with the Career Services office to brainstorm alternate experiences that still meet the needs of a typical on-site position.

In collaboration with the Pancratz Career Development Center in the Nistler College of Business & Public Administration, UND Career Services developed a helpful “to-do list” for employers considering a virtual internship.

“There have been some really good conversations about what they can do to create something, and recognizing the possibilities that are out there,” Feller said.

Ilene Odegard

Odegard remarked that the positive and trusting relationships maintained with local entities have always created valuable opportunities for students, and that it’s now more important than ever for students to make a connection to Career Services.

“Between the Pancratz Center and our office, we serve all students and alumni,” Odegard said. “We want recent graduates to know that they are not alone in their employment search, and we stand ready to assist with all things career related.”

“During this pandemic, things may seem bleak,” she continued. “But we offer advice, careful reviews of resumes and cover letters and help with the job search.  Lastly, and most importantly, we offer encouragement, which helps students remain motivated and feel empowered.”