Career Studio: UC students push professional goals forward

A&S peer coaches share job-hunting expertise, through COVID and beyond

By Jenn Cammel and Rebecca Schweitzer

While the COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much of college students’ lives, one need remains the same: landing a job after graduation.

Toward that end, University of Cincinnati students, working through the Bearcat Promise Career Studio, serve as peer coaches, mentoring students with advice for building resumés and cover letters, interviewing, navigating career platforms such as LinkedIn and Handshake and upcoming virtual career fairs.

The Bearcat Promise Career Studio, which opened in 2019 in UC’s Tangeman University Center, offers full-service job search coaching to students seeking their next step out of college. The center supports UC’s strategic direction Next Lives Here, and its Bearcat Promise that UC students leave college with a degree in one hand, and a career plan in the other.

With spring semester about a month away, A&S students can take advantage of these services to prepare for upcoming college career events, including Spring Career Fair: Professional Day on Tuesday, Feb. 9, and the A&S Career Fair scheduled for Wednesday, March 31.

Here, four peer career coaches from A&S share their experiences and top tips for job searches during COVID and beyond.

Emily Kozak, English Rhetoric, Professional Writing major

A&S Peer Career Coach Emily Kozak

A&S Peer Career Coach Emily Kozak

As a peer career coach, Kozak is prepared to help students with resumé formatting or creation, cover letter and CV reviews, and online career sites such as LinkedIn and Handshake. 

Currently, the career coaches are available to work distanced from students or online through Teams or email.  

“Every resumé and experience is different, so when a student comes in I’m on my toes and I can’t decide what’s best for said student until we start talking. I don’t do the same thing every day, which makes the job that much more fun,” she says. 

Although the most common issues that career coaches help students with are resumés and cover letters, the personal development needs of the student population can vary based on the time of year and events scheduled. 

“Before the career fair, we work on a lot of resumés and elevator speeches. In the spring and winter before graduations, we work on interviews,” she says.

The Bearcat Promise Studio recently unveiled a new professional headshot booth in Tangeman University Center (TUC) for students and the career coaches —Kozak herself recently took advantage of the new opportunity for her own headshot. 

Kozak not only has helped other students while working as a peer career coach but she also feels that the experience has helped her with her own career.

“As a student, I’ve learned so much about jobs in the real world by helping others. Teaching is the best way of learning yourself, so this has been incredible experience and I feel very prepared to start my job search before I graduate in the spring!”

Prashanth Prabhakar, Biological Sciences major

As the job market adjusts to the impact of COVID, so does the university in preparing students for a career after school. Because of the pandemic, students may have to learn new skills or approach problems differently than they would before, says Prabhakar. 

One thing students should keep an eye out for when applying for jobs is how companies and industries have responded to the pandemic. Some industries are suffering more than others right now—such as dental services and the film industry—and if your intended market is not doing great, it might be beneficial to broaden your search, he says.

While this may seem concerning for students whose intended career paths have been impact, Prabhakar reminds them that this is temporary. “Just remember this pandemic will not last forever,” Prabhakar says. “Everyone has adapted in some way and there is only so much in our control, so be prepared to shift gears if needed.” 

Keep your head up, and keep looking forward for opportunities.

Prashanth Prabhakar, A&S Peer Career Coach and Biological Sciences major

Prabhakar recommends that job-searching students familiarize themselves with a full suite of online video platforms — tools such as Zoom, Webex, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, Skype and other similar services. Having experience with these platforms will relieve stress if students are required to use one for an interview or meeting, he says.

Another tip Prabhakar offers is that students get as much work experience as they can, even if some of it is unpaid. Volunteer or shadowing experience can be helpful while students look for a full time job or internship, he says. 

Finally, Prabhakar reminds students to try to “maintain a positive attitude during this time. It really is easy to get upset and depressed due to some virus which changed our lives.

“Keep your head up, and keep looking forward for opportunities,” he says. 

Mya Jones, Psychology major, Deaf Studies certificate

A&S Peer Career Coach Mya Jones

A&S Peer Career Coach Mya Jones

Most of the students Jones works with are looking for help with resumés, for specific classes or their after-college careers.

Jones helps the student recognize their expectations for their resumé, and start them on the building process. After bulleting points from past experiences, the students can then craft these experiences to show potential employers the transferable skills they have to offer, she says. 

In addition to the frequent one-on-one work with students, Jones leads and records presentations across UC to help students learn about finding on campus work, financial wellness tips, building a functioning LinkedIn profile, and resumé building. 

While working as a peer career coach, Jones says she has been able to improve her own time management skills, and realize that although she is still a student, she is also a working professional capable of growing her skills. Through the influence of those around her, Jones has gained experience she wasn’t expecting and feels that she is able to “teach others the insider tricks of the job world.” 

“I would just say that my favorite students are the ones who come in multiple times to talk about resumés and update me on their job progress. It makes me so happy to see students use our office and get amazing experience from it.”

 She also recommends that students apply for employment coaching for their peers at the studio: “Not only is it a great work environment on campus, but it gives you firsthand knowledge on skills you will use for the rest of your life, while still getting to interact and teach your peers. I have definitely grown in this role.”

Laura Wood, Biological Sciences and Chemistry major

Wood started working at the Bearcat Promise Career Studio last semester after a professor often assigned homework that required going to the studio.

“It was really nice that I got to experience a lot of what the studio offered before I applied there,” Wood says. “I had my resumé reviewed by the studio before I applied to work there. I actually met my boss for the first time at an On-Campus Co-Op Career Fair held in the Career Studio.”

In addition to adjusting to her new job this semester, Wood had to adjust to the studio changing in accordance with the campus’s COVID restrictions. Students are required to wear a mask when entering the studio and check in at the front desk. They then sit six feet away from the peer coach for a resume review. When a student finishes a session, the area is cleaned for the next person.

This service is also provided electronically, with the student emailing the document to the peer coach for feedback. Students also can attend the studio’s virtual hours, where they can video chat with their peer coach. Students can also simply submit their resume to the studio’s email at careerstudio@uc.edu for feedback.

Wood, who may see 20-25 people during her shift, says she's thankful for the methods used to keep students safe as well as for allowing for a place where students can get advice and guidance as they head towards their future career.

“It is a really nice and easy process,” Wood says.

Featured image at top: Student working remotely. Image by StockSnap from Pixabay.

Speaking of jobs...

The Bearcat Promise Career Studio expects to be hiring peer career coaches for fall 2021 in February or March. Opportunities will be posted in Handshake.