April 17, 2020

ASU’s Career and Professional Development Services has made transition to full virtual support for students, alumni

A firm handshake, a direct look in the eye and an engaged demeanor.

These traits have been the staple of successful business engagement for as long as we can remember.

But a move toward the virtual world, courtesy of COVID-19, is changing all that.

Arizona State University’s Career and Professional Development Services, which has historically offered career resources in a highly personalized setting, has made the successful transition to remote support and mentoring.

“Most people are under the impression that connecting with quality career resources and support requires you to sit down one-on-one across the desk from a career coach," said Amy Michalenko, director of Service Delivery and Strategic Initiatives in Career and Professional Development Services. “This antiquated notion was on its way out, well before the pandemic hit.”

ASU Now spoke to Michalenko about the variety of services her department offers, what the current job market looks like, and how they’re utilizing virtual formats to better serve students and alumni at a time when they need it most.

Woman in brown suit smiling

Amy Michalenko 

Question: Almost all of ASU has mobilized its forces to provide online solutions for all of its departments. Since what you do is so highly personalized and hands-on, what’s that process been like for Career and Professional Development Services and how did you make the transition?

Answer: This global pandemic has had a swift and wide-reaching impact on all of us and all facets of our lives. From one week to the next and even day to day, decisions and directives were changing and at a rapid pace. However, with all of this uncertainty, the Career and Professional Development Services team was uniquely positioned to easily make the transition to full virtual support for students, alumni and our employer partners. 

Prior to the pandemic, our team had always been responsible for serving our ASU Online and alumni populations — populations that are spread across the globe. Serving these populations requires us to think about how we provide each of our services in virtual format. Online students and alumni need to be able to access the same career support, as someone who can connect with us at one of our physical campus locations, regardless of where they are located. When the time came to quickly shift the mediums in which we provide service — we were ready. Literally one day we were in the office and the next our team was dispersed across the Valley working from our homes but there was never a drop or change in the quality or number of services offered by Career and Professional Development Services. 

I guess you could say we were preparing for this type of situation long before this pandemic. While we understand much has changed, the one thing we can assure is that the support and resources we provide to ASU have not. 

Q: What level of access do students and alumni still have and what services are you now offering online? 

A: We realize that now more than ever, students and alumni will need career support. Our team wants to make sure that the ASU community is aware that we are open and available to support them as we always have been. The services you expect from your ASU career team continue to exist in a virtual format. We encourage the ASU community to visit our website at career.asu.edu. On our website, we have a specific page dedicated to surfacing key resources related to COVID-19. Our site can also connect you to many of the key resources you can leverage such as HandshakeASU Mentor NetworkResume DropboxInterview Streamonline videos and courses and so much more. 

So whether a student or alumnus needs a one-on-one career advising appointment, wants to drop in to a virtual career and internship Q&A, requires a resume review, wants to practice their interviewing skills, seeks to build connections with industry professionals, wants to attend a workshop, employer recruiting session or career fair — they still can! Our staff remains current on industry news — staying on top of daily industry updates and hiring trends to best support the ASU community. It is also important to note that while we have tons of self-service resources on our website that can be utilized anytime, anywhere — like informative videos, helpful articles and career and internship courses – we still offer a host of opportunities that allow for the ASU community to easily connect with a staff member in order to receive a personalized experience. 

We also continue to support our faculty and staff partners by providing virtual presentations on career readiness skills and career resources that can be embedded into Canvas courses.

Q: I assume the job market since the COVID-19 pandemic began has been turned on its head. What are you seeing out there, and is there hope for new graduates? Are companies now hiring, and how do they look for a job in this market?

A: COVID-19 has had a big impact on the job market. With graduation approaching for many Sun Devils, it is understandable that there is nervousness around the uncertainty of their next steps. It is hard not to read or hear the stories of companies who have paused hiring, organizations laying off workers and internship programs being canceled. For our students and alumni, the world around them feels like it has changed overnight. The job market as it exists now is not the job market our students and alumni were operating in even just a month ago. While it is important to acknowledge the very real concern our students and alumni have, we also want people to know that we are working hard to make sure they continue to have opportunities.   

ASU utilizes Handshake to connect students and alumni with employers who are hiring for internships and jobs across the globe. Our team is continuing to see promising activity by employers in the system. On average, we were seeing 100 to 150 positions being posted in Handshake each day throughout the month of March. A diversity of organizations are continuing their hiring for a wide variety of positions. It is important for those seeking internships and jobs to think about organizations you might not have considered that are actually growing because of the changes and shifts we are seeing in our day-to-day lives. For example, many tech companies have had to rapidly scale their teams in order to serve the growing need as companies and educational intuitions transition to virtual working and learning. Companies like Zoom, Slack, Amazon and Google are actually increasing their hiring efforts for a wide variety of positions — even beyond the technical positions you would expect them to hire for. Also, consider the companies that are actually in the business of supporting social distancing like Postmates and Instacart. Health care organizations and educational institutions are ramping up their efforts to serve the constantly changing environment they are operating within.  

While we understand you may be nervous — taking action is key. Be sure to log on to Handshake and get your profile up to date, including completing your career interests, adding your work experiences and skills and uploading a professional resume. Once your profile is up to date, make it public to employers. Studies show that students and alumni with a complete and public profile are five times more likely to have a recruiter connect with them. We also recommend that you leverage networking and connection building with professionals and ASU alumni in your field of interest — personal connections will be a key to your success now more than ever. So log on to the ASU Mentor Network, search for connections of interest and reach out. These are folks who are excited about supporting Sun Devils, and the tips and guidance they can share will be invaluable. 

Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your department as you go forward?

A: While I think the impact of this pandemic is yet to be fully realized for all of us — I am certain Career and Professional Development Services has learned a lot about the resiliency of our team and the commitment that underpins all that we do — students and alumni first! One thing our team is sure of is that our learning community will continue to grow. This time is certain to teach us a lot about how to innovate and scale services in a way that feels personalized and tailored to each learner. In the short time we have been fully virtual, we have intensely focused on growing our online content to ensure that the expertise held within our team can be accessed by the masses, not just those who are able to come through our doors at a physical campus location. It reminds us how imperative it is for our team to be agile and innovative, as the only constant is change and we must meet our ASU community where they are at. This pandemic has continued to inspire our innovative mindset which will last long after this time in our nation and in our community passes.      

Top photo illustration courtesy of ASU's Career and Professional Development Services.

Reporter , ASU Now

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