Career advisors support alumni in transition during the pandemic

May 25, 2021

University News

From hiring freezes and layoffs to remote work and Zoom interviews, the pandemic has upended how Spiders search for and land their next job. UR’s Career Services office has been helping students navigate the challenges of an unprecedented job market — but advisors can also help alumni at any stage of their career.

Becca Shelton, assistant director of Career Services, is an advisor who specializes in alumni and graduate students in the School of Professional and Continuing Studies. The pandemic has led many alumni to reconsider their career options and, as a result, Shelton has seen an uptick in virtual advising appointments.

“Virtual appointments have allowed me to reach alumni from the West Coast to Japan,” she said. “Now our alumni understand that we are very accessible, and that they do have Career Services free for life.”

During an appointment, Shelton consults alumni on the fundamentals of job searching and helps them understand how the landscape has shifted. For instance, while the content of interviews remains largely unchanged, new technologies continue to emerge. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet might seem similar, but their interfaces can vary wildly. She recommends job seekers spend time getting familiar with video platforms and formats before logging on.

Shelton said lately many people she meets with are in transition, whether they’ve chosen to take time off or redirect their careers, or they’ve been forced to reassess due to a layoff. She encourages alumni to use the time to learn new skills. Not only will they be more equipped for a new position, they can also explain a gap in their résumé.

“A hiring manager is always going to want to hear that you chose to better yourself,” she said. “One of the silver linings of the pandemic is that many reputable online educational platforms have offered free classes. Consider if you need to brush up on Excel or learn Adobe’s digital tools or gain a skill you need for the next step in your career.”

Throughout the pandemic, Shelton has been offering these tips — and more — in professional development webinars for alumni. This spring she hosted two series. One focused on fundamental job search tactics, such as writing résumés and cover letters, LinkedIn networking, and interviewing. The second walked participants through the process of making a career change, from exploring options to identifying strengths and translating them in a new industry.

“We were seeing so many alumni decide that they wanted to make changes, but that's such a huge, ambiguous thing to embark on,” she said. “It's really difficult to break it down into manageable steps. People just want to figure out where to start.”

UR Career Services does just that.