If you’ve been in the Emerson Career Development Center in the last several months you’ve probably noticed some new people.
A quartet of recent hires are continuing the Center’s mission to provide services to students and alumni, including individual career counseling, job fairs, interview preparation, cover letter and resume reviews, and more.
The main goal is to make students future-ready, said Career Development Center Director Carol Spector. As the world has gone virtual, so have student appointments. Career Development Center staff continues to be in the office every day, but students are offered the option of in-person or virtual appointments, and about 80 percent of student appointments are being conducted remotely.
Being future-ready includes preparing students to communicate virtually with employers, how to work virtually, and educating them in different work styles.
“All their interviews are virtual. We’ve taken the approach that what we’re doing is setting the example for them,” said Spector. “This is how their employers are working.”
Spector said that most employers aren’t providing in-person tours, and approximately 60 percent of internships are virtual.
“Does that mean you need to be more assertive with your supervisor if they’re not around? Do you have to be more time-efficient with your schedule?” asked Spector. “How do you do check-ins and have those conversations? Students are coming to us with these challenges.”
Helping Younger Versions of Herself
Sharon Schiffer began working at Emerson in September, and she is the first person in the newly created role of career access and equity coordinator. Schiffer meets with students who come from historically marginalized communities. She is working with student organizations, such as Protesting Oppression with Educational Reform (POWER) and Asian Students in Alliance (A.S.I.A.), and with students with disabilities, first-generation students, and BIPOC students.
Her role includes connecting students with specific employers, alumni, faculty, fostering networking opportunities, current students with similar interests, or encourage students to learn specific skills.
“Many times, a lot of our students are very focused and driven, and sometimes that doesn’t give them time to reflect and talk,” said Schiffer. “[The Career Development Center] gives them space to talk so they can figure out wat they want to do, and not everyone knows they want to do, so they need someone to bounce ideas off.”
Schiffer said she really enjoys helping younger versions of herself — people who didn’t really have a lot of parental guidance or a network of people to help with their careers.
Building Partnerships with Employers
Linh Nguyen started her role as assistant director of employer engagement in November. Nguyen builds partnerships with employers for internship opportunities, connects students to different opportunities, networks with alumni to come engage on campus or host an intern, works with her academic advising colleagues, and more.
Nguyen said COVID has presented a double-edged sword.
“There’s been a shift with internship and employment fairs, and at [an infection peak at] Emerson the fairs were virtual,” said Nguyen. “Going virtual saves employers money, but you can’t take away a face-to-face interaction.”
Nguyen said she doesn’t feel employers are going back to as many in-person opportunities because oftentimes businesses can’t travel, have had their budgets slashed, and are continuing to work remotely.
“We’re thinking of how to provide students with interaction time and make it worth it for both parties involved,” said Nguyen.
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Prior to starting as the interim marketing and communications specialist in November, Juan Vega Rios ’21 had been a student worker in the Career Development Center. In his current role, he utilizes social media to promote the Center’s work to the student population, and let them know about employers.
“As a recent graduate, I think about how I would like info be provided to me,” said Rios. “They don’t want to be sold. It’s a balance of information and entertainment, and that goes very well with TikToks.”
With that understanding, Rios created a TikTok account for the Center and uses Instagram Reels, too. One of the first TikToks he shared was about a summer internship experience, which did very well.
New Face Back in A Familiar Place
The newest face at the Career Development Center, Ryan Smith, MA ’00, was excited to be back at Emerson, and starting work in mid-January as the associate director of undergraduate career services. While he just started working at Emerson, he’s been a career advisor for more than 16 years at numerous institutions.
“I have ties to Emerson. I really want to be part of the community. I’m engaging with different [organizations and departments] on campus to let them know what we’re doing and seeing how we can collaborate,” said Smith. “I really think broadly about keeping a dialogue for collaboration, especially for students who felt like they weren’t engaged with in the past. I think one of the tricky things about career development is that the word ‘career’ is scary. Some students think they need to have it all figured out before coming in.”
Smith helps students with exploration and transitioning from being a student and campus life into the real world. He said it’s never too late or too early to engage with the Center. Alums can have up to three appointments with the Career Development Center per year, and can also attend employer events, career cafes, have access to Handshake for job listings, and Emerge for networking opportunities.