When New Jersey governor Phil Murphy, among other governors, announced sweeping public health orders, social distancing measures and travel restrictions in March in response to the COVID-19 health crisis, countless business operations slowed or paused entirely.
Not the Stevens Career Center. It didn't miss a beat.
"We're busier than ever," reports Lynn Insley, the Career Center's executive director. "Employers continue to interview our students — virtually of course — and we are also fielding more requests than usual from employers to provide virtual information sessions and informal chats with students; they are actively seeking ways to maintain a presence and keep their brand in front of students."
The Career Center is even moving full-steam-ahead with its annual spring co-op interview day, which will be conducted virtually in early June. Some three dozen employers, scheduled to interview more than 100 Stevens students, have already signed up.
"Everything we did to support students before the crisis, we are continuing to deliver, and now we are also providing additional resources to support the current virtual recruiting environment," notes Insley.
"We were exceptionally well positioned to make the transition."
Tech-savvy career team pivots to digital
When Stevens moved to temporarily close its own campus in early March, transitioning teaching, learning and operation to virtual platforms, the Career Center team was prepared for crisis mode.
Personnel had already begun testing virtual functions, interactions and video conferencing tools as health warnings escalated. Once closures became official, the Center quickly began streamlining both its website — emphasizing virtual resources, while reducing click-throughs to key services — and operations.
Next, Insley and her career advisors took steps to enhance existing online offerings while maintaining continuity and contact with students. Some of those steps included:
- Building new content. Advisors created additional workshops on such topics as networking and online profile creation, posting them live to complement the Center's existing workshops.
- Continuing to seek and forward job leads. "While hiring is on pause for many employers, there are still some employment opportunities available," notes Insley, "so we are still actively seeking opportunities and sending job alerts to graduating seniors."
- Working with industry. Stevens has begun partnering with employers to address the challenge of gaining and maintaining access to students, for example by creating "micro-internships" that allow students to work on individual, employer-assigned projects remotely. The Center is also connecting students with newly created resources such as the webinars that employers such as Goldman Sachs, McKinsey & Company, Prudential and Verizon are generating for prospective hires and interns.
While some employers are still working through the merits and the technical requirements of recruiting, interviewing and making decisions entirely virtually, a number of prominent companies have continued recruiting Stevens students without a hitch.
"Some of these companies are even completing the entire process online," says Insley. "We have strong relationships with leading employers, and we are very grateful that they are continuing to recruit top Stevens talent even during this unusual time."
Students turning challenges into new opportunities
The Career Center has also communicated constantly with students whose summer internship and co-op programs have suddenly been thrown into disarray.
Lauren Chen, a business and technology major in the Class of 2021, saw a coveted summer internship at L’Oréal in New York City’s Hudson Yards suddenly canceled at the last moment by the growing pandemic.
She immediately turned to the Center.
“I felt a lot of pressure,” recalls Chen. “So I went online, made an appointment via Handshake with a Stevens career counselor with whom I’d had a long relationship, and we talked. It was seamless. She had always been there for me before, and she was again. She encouraged me not to give up, to keep perspective, keep looking, to use my network.”
And within just two weeks, after reaching out to a mentor from a previous internship at Prudential — also secured with the assistance of the Career Center — Chen discovered another internship available at Samsung’s U.S. headquarters in New Jersey. Her mentor graciously offered to utilize her network, and referred Chen for the position.
She applied and was selected.
The internship, with the technology firm’s Consumer Shopper and Market Insights team, will begin virtually in June. There’s also a possibility Chen may work in-office if health measures ease later in summer.
"In the end, I will be getting an experience that’s actually pretty closely aligned with my education and future interest in marketing. It’s important for me to have a diversified set of internship experiences before I graduate, so I'm excited for this new opportunity," she says. "I am fortunate Samsung is prioritizing students' safety and well-being through providing the option to work virtually.
"I'm so grateful for all the people around me who have been supportive, including my mentor and the Career Center."
Support continues through and beyond crisis
Insley notes that the pandemic has begun to affect 2020 summer internship programs — making the Career Center's role even more important as students negotiate uncertain waters.
“Staying connected to all our constituents is our number one priority. Whatever challenges are being encountered, as long as we’re connected, we will figure out a way forward together.”
"We have not seen offers of full-time employment affected as of yet, but we are monitoring the situation very closely," she says. "We will be ready to give the best advice possible. Staying connected to all our constituents is our number one priority. Whatever challenges are being encountered, as long as we’re connected, we will figure out a way forward together."
As the nation's economy enters an uncertain next stretch, Insley says Stevens will continue to be there for its students at every turn.
"Stevens students are very technologically savvy," she concludes. "That's part of the reason they're here. So our students are in an especially strong position to adapt to changing situations like this one.
"But it also means our students expect their university and their Career Center to be up to the challenge of quickly leveraging and delivering the necessary technology in this new virtual environment, during the crisis — and of making their interactions during the career search and decision process as user-friendly as possible.
"I think we have done that. And we will keep working to do it even better."