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Employer Insight Interviews

The Employer Advisory Board serves as a resource for the Cohen Career Center, providing insights as both working professionals and alumni in various fields. They regularly provide advice and feedback to students on current and future industry trends. To better assist students, the EAB members recently answered a series of questions regarding the current state of employment in the COVID-19 Pandemic as well as its impact on their respective industries. The full series of questions and responses are below.  

Employer Insights
Interview questions and responses
For students whose summer plans have changed, how can students still use this time to get career ready?
  • Hailey, Megan: "For interns, ask for virtual coffee chats or informational interviews. Ask the recruiter if they can connect the student with someone in the full-time program they wish to pursue (get advice on skills they should be working on so they're more marketable/ready once full-time roles around). For full-time, same as last sentence above. Find out what skills could help them be better prepared once the new start date has been assigned. Familiarize themselves with the technologies that the company uses so they're ready to rock 'n roll once they are able to start working."
  • Kingsley, Neil: "Take a class or classes online at school.  Assuming we are no longer self-isolating in the summer, if you are unable to get a professional job or internship, do some volunteer work that has applicability to the kind of job you are seeking."
  • Lucas, Cristie: "Depends on “what” plans changed. 
    • Externships should be able to be moved later in summer.  These are short, unpaid experiences and easy for us to host.
    • Some internships may not be able to go on. 
      • Needs may have changed. 
      • Many internships will not be successful as remote opportunities.  In our case, we’ve moved back the start date to comply with VA’s Stay at Home orders.  It was more important for us to have in-person orientation and supervision than to keep things on schedule.
      • If an internship has been rescinded due to low demand, a combination of a hourly wage work (there are still lots of paying hourly jobs out there!) and some level of volunteerism in the field will still look very strong on a resume.
      • Are there modifications you can make to your timing?  Ie:  next summer you were going to take an exam, class or test.  Can you front load those things to this summer to free up the time you’ll have next summer for career based employment?  Are there preparatory or even grad school courses you can move into the summer?  .  One of our new hires is jumping in to take the CPA exam early which makes a ton of sense.    How can you get creative with YOUR timing to become available during the desirable upcoming recovery time period? (most experts call this a “V-shaped economic recovery”.)
      • If things recover mid summer – continue the search, continue looking on TribeCareers and staying in touch with those recruiting contacts…things could literally come online in real time if the recovery mirrors those of past pandemics.  Experts also suggest that the longer the economic pain, the less immediate the recovery, so obviously we need to see where this goes.
      • Upskill. LinkedIn has a great tool for online courses.  Once classes are out and students have time on their hands, this could be useful.
      • Network when it’s “hard”.  Employers will appreciate the students who stayed in touch vs. retreated."
  • Ryan, Tim: "Use this opportunity to grow. Think about the things you’ve wanted to accomplish and accomplish them.  Read books, run a 1/2 marathon, challenge yourself to become better personally and professionally. "
  • Weissgold, Kelsey: "I'd recommend spending the time taking online courses, badges, certificates - all items that you can add to your resume. Coursea has some great offerings. IBM also offers free digital badges, check them out here:
    Or, work on a "self directed" project. You can make anything/everything count!  For example, organizing a network of folks in your neighborhood who are making masks? That's an awesome project to add to your resume (highlights supply chain. communications, project management, etc.)"
What advice do you have for graduating seniors?
  • Hailey, Megan: "Know that your path doesn't need to be straight. Taking a role outside of your field of study is ok! I graduated from grad school in 2008 and I luckily started in the field I studied, but also used it as an opportunity to explore other options; ultimately leading me to the career I have now."
  • Kingsley, Neil: "If you have a job offer already, stay in touch with the employer to find out what impact the current situation is going to have on a start date.  If you don't have an offer, many employers are still accepting applications, so use this down-time to work on those."
  • Lucas, Cristie: "
    • Circumstances are beyond your control right now.  Some of you may have jobs rescinded.  Some may not be able to find something right away.  Others may be asked to work remotely.  And there are some jobs which should not be impacted and will start without complication. 
    • My best advice to stay in control when there are so many things out of your control is financial:
      • Keep your expenses down any way you can
        • Do not commit to monthly expenses with terms like apartment leases, car payments, gym memberships, etc until you have actually STARTED and have that income coming in the door (remember, some companies pay “in arrears” resulting in your first paycheck being weeks after starting)– this may mean living with family for now. 
        • Now is the time to KNOW what it costs you to live.  Do a simple budget.  What are your car and insurance expenses?  Are you responsible for food, clothing, and other necessities?  If you are renting an apartment, do you have a realistic understanding of the cost of utilities, security deposits and the like?  Now is the time to get your arms around what expenses are necessary and which can be trimmed (ie.  health insurance premium, cell or internet service = necessary, 401k contribution, gym membership, Netflix, while nice, may not be). 
      •  Beyond the window provided by the Feds, defer student loan payments when you do not have employment
      • Do anything you can NOW to keep credit card debt at bay.  It might be tempting to fund aspects of your last semester senior year on a consumer credit card to pay off “once you get a job”.  Do NOT do this.   If you have monthly expenses right now, try to offset them with an hourly job to the extent that is safe and possible for you to do.
      • EMERGENCY FUNDS are not just for families.  Individuals should have these too.  Do your best to sock away as much as you can right now with the goal of having several months of living expenses available to you as a safety net.
      • Plan now for taxes – if you’ve received any sort of bonus from an employer, tax will be due on that if not withheld.  Keep this money aside if you can."
  • Ryan, Tim: "Great BIG! With uncertainty comes great opportunity and take advantage of those opportunities. If an employer rescinded their offer, work for a startup  or start your own company. You may never get the chance to try something like this again. "
  • Weissgold, Kelsey: "If you are graduating with a job already lined up - be flexible with your employer as they work through the details of figuring out the best way for you to start in a role that is productive and safe. This is a new landscape for everyone, so employers are working through updates every minute on how to bring new hires onboard.
    If you are graduating without a job - don't fret! Take the time to make sure you have a strong "digital footprint" on platforms like LinkedIn, etc. Make a website all about you/your resume. Keep applying to roles and make sure that employees can find you online.
How are companies changing their recruiting efforts during this time?
  • Hailey, Megan: "I've been encouraged by how many companies are doing their best to convert events and internships/full-time onboardings to virtual. We're all trying how to do what's best to support our students and ensure their safety. It's not necessarily ideal, but we've been encouraged how students have responded to the changes."
  • Kingsley, Neil: "Most have suspended in-person recruitment and are attempting to continue remotely.  To a great extent they have had no choice because schools have gone to virtual classes and cancelled in-person recruiting opportunities.  This dynamic may well lead to at least a temporary continuation of virtual recruiting tools and approaches after the crisis is past."
  • Lucas, Cristie
    • Many are moving to “virtual” interviews, etc. 
    • MOST college hiring had happened by now for Summer/Fall 2020.  I don’t think any of us yet know how this will truly play out beyond this timeline or even what fall recruiting will truly look like – it’s just too soon."
  • Ryan, Tim: "Companies will start to hire as their revenues begin to grow again or if you can show an immediate impact to help the company grow. You must be able to impact. "
How has your work changed during this time and what steps have you taken to adjust to those changes?
  • Hailey, Megan: "Work hours have become a bit "non-traditional". Trying to find the balance between working from home 5 days a week + juggling a family has been a challenge. Continuing to allow the team to work when they can, balance their mental/physical health, and give grace have been incredibly important during these times. We've implemented extra flexible work hours and continually share out best practices."
  • Kingsley, Neil: "Working for a USG agency, the main impact has been a significant reduction in the number of officers at work.  We are trying to continue with a skeleton staff, managing just the essential tasks until the workforce returns to full strength."
  • Lucas, Cristie: "I’ve been working from home for many years.  It’s been interesting to see others now embracing this technology.  I still think some jobs can be done well remotely, and others cannot.  This will always be the case (thankfully).  “Doing the best we can for now” in some of these less than ideal roles because it’s mandated does not mean they will stay remote once this pandemic retreats.  There will always be a need for people to work “with” each other.  If you haven’t enjoyed tele-school or tele-work as much as you anticipated, that’s ok!"
  • Ryan, Tim: "Our organization has to get leaner and be able to react as quickly as possible or forecast the constantly changing landscape. Only the strong will survive."
How can students/recent grads stay on a company’s radar even if they aren’t hiring right now?
  • Hailey, Megan: "I always encourage students to reach out to recruiters to connect or ask for advice. Ask for those informational interviews. Continue to build their skillsets in their respective field - part-time job, volunteer work, online work, etc."
  • Kingsley, Neil: "Many employers are still accepting on-line applications. If students already have a job offer, they can check in periodically with the contact number they have."
  • Lucas, Cristie: "
    • Simply keep in touch.  Utilized different check in options – email, LinkedIn, even commenting on a firm’s social media presence. 
    • Check in with multiple people at your firm/s of interest to keep those relationships warm.   
    • Keep in touch with your career services offices and professors also!  Over the last two recessions, these were the BEST connections for learning who was hiring and who was not."
  •  Ryan, Tim: "Establish relationships with decision makers. Volunteer your time and keep the relationship warm. "
What was your first job or destination after graduation? How did you find it?
  • Hailey, Megan: "I was lucky enough to go to a very specific graduate school (right out of undergrad) that had very close ties to the industry. I came out of school and went straight to NYC in a media buying role. I spent my spring breaks doing informational interviews and attending any company-sponsored event. The grad school I went to hosted a late career fair and I made sure to show up as best as possible. I met with anyone and everyone; regardless of clout. I ended up with a very prestigious firm, but I still have amazing relationships that came out of the non-traditional meetings."
  • Kingsley, Neil: "The Army.  Went through ROTC at W&M."
  • Lucas, Cristie: "Auditor with Johnson Lambert & Co. – through W&M On-campus recruiting (interned and later accepted a full-time position)"
  • Ryan, Tim: "After graduating, I started my own business. I identified a problem that needed to be solved and my business was formed. I help experts in their respective field place a business around those talents. "
  • Weissgold, Kelsey: "My first job after graduation was as a Strategy and Operations Consultant at Deloitte's Federal Practice. I actually graduated in May without a job  - but I took some time to find my bearings and came back in October to participate in the on-campus recruitment cycle. Thankfully, the Cohen Career Center allows graduates to apply to on-campus job posting/attend on-campus interviews up to a year after graduation. This is a great tip for graduating seniors who may be worried about the job market in May - keep an eye on TribeCareers as more job postings will come up in the Fall."
What did you learn from your first job?
  • Hailey, Megan: "A lot about myself! Being a grown-up is hard! I had always about relationships and the importance of networking, but never had I seen it so real as I transitioned to the real world."
  • Kingsley, Neil: "That the career you think you want may not turn out to be what you thought it would be.  Staying flexible enough to change course early enough to get on the right track."
  • Lucas, Cristie: "Client service, time management (learned to juggle a demanding job and studying for the CPA exam at once), how to succeed in a multi-generational workplace, transition from “classroom to boardroom” with so many new and different expectations."
  • Ryan, Tim: "You can always find a reason NOT to do something, The key is to find the way to make progress. Additionally, you never stop learning."
What did you find most helpful when trying to figure out what you wanted to do for a career?
  • Hailey, Megan: "I harken back to my "don't be afraid to not take a straight path"...The career I have now is the best I could have asked for, but it took learning from a few other careers to find out my true passion. Each path I took taught me something new and what I ultimately learned was the thread that held all together - relationships. Regardless if I stay in my current space or not I will always know that finding a role where relationship management is key will be a driving factor."
  • Kingsley, Neil: "Talking with a former professor.  Getting his ideas and taking advantage of his contacts."
  • Lucas, Cristie: "Attending firm info sessions.  Even if these aren’t being held in person right now, see what you can attend virtually.  Are there people you can Facetime or Zoom with?"
  • Ryan, Tim: "Don’t turn down an opportunity. Accept the challenge and figure out the solution. Chances are you were offered the opportunity because someone believed in you, otherwise they wouldn't’t have asked you. Over time, you will continue to progress."
What is something you’d wish you’d known when first entering the job market?
  • Hailey, Megan: "To take time to ask questions! No one expects you to know everything Day 1."
  • Kingsley, Neil: "To take better advantage of career services offices at the schools I went to."
  • Lucas, Cristie: "SAVE MONEY.  Young people sometimes don’t exercise the discipline that they could.  They are much more “here and now, worry about the big stuff later”.   Our current challenging environment really illustrates that it pays to be prepared which allows you not to panic when others around you are.  I am so impressed with our staff who show this discipline right out of school."
  • Ryan, Tim: "Relationships are the key to business and success. Keep your relationships strong."
What did you see, experience, witness, as a job-seeker during the 2008 downturn? (If applicable!)
  • Hailey, Megan: "Ugh! Roles were slim, salaries were slimmer (esp when I moved to NYC!). But, what was encouraging was those of us entering the market together were so supportive. As people were finding roles or opportunities they were sharing with others; in hopes that something would be a great fit."
  • Kingsley, Neil: "Fortunately, I rode out the Great Recession in my current job."
  • Lucas, Cristie: "I’ve been through the 9/11, .com crash in 2001 and the 2008 “great recession”.  In both cases, there was still intern and entry level hiring.   Things like accounting, IT, government jobs – those are all super stable but sometimes catch the shadow of flashier jobs in finance, gig, consulting, etc – particularly in hot job markets.  It’s a good idea to apply for a variety of jobs (but focus on, say, a couple of tracks rather than “throwing the noodle at any wall just to see what sticks which can leave you spinning your wheels).  Also consider a one year grad program in something like accounting or analytics if the current job market isn’t great.  One year for things to change + an enhanced skills set/possible credential (ie. CPA which requires 150 hours) can make ALL of the difference.  I’ve seen it countless times."
  • Ryan, Tim: "n/a"
Do you foresee long term changes to the way we work after this crisis is over?
  • Hailey, Megan: "We're currently working through what this could look like, but all signs point that we will do our best to go back to normal. A silver lining benefit would be that we all learn to work better virtually and we all become more understanding of the balance we all keep outside of work."
  • Kingsley, Neil: "I want to say that recruitment outreach will become more virtual than it has been in the past, but I think we will eventually revert back to more tradition in-person engagement because both job-seekers and employers will understand that there is no substitute for personal interaction."
  • Lucas, Cristie: "Some employers and fields will open their minds to remote or tele-work.  It won’t work in all cases – even in the areas where we are currently being forced to work.  I think you’re seeing that some types of teams thrive interpersonally and need the energy that is created by being together.  BUT in some cases, it will change things.  And most certainly, I think you’ll see lots of companies developing remote “contingency plans” the way we developed business continuation plans to address possible disruptions due to the threat of terrorism post 9/11.  I also think we’ll see a big push to move “some” manufacturing/pharma industries back onto American soil.  This may or may not create those types of entry level jobs which could be attractive to some recent grads.  I suggest staying abreast of changing regulations to see where real time trends and needs are! "
  • Ryan, Tim: "Yes, I do. The “old” way or pre-COVID-19 way of life and doing business is forever changed.  When this “passes”, we will then enter the next new normal. "