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A port in the storm

Student Life offers hope to students through online career counselling

Student Life

By Janet Harron

At the best of times, finding work can be difficult.

Julie Kavanagh at her home in St. John’s, N.L.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

But despite the pandemic, student and alumni prospective employees are finding help in the form of Memorial University’s Career Development office.

“Even though we are not physically in the office, we are still here for students,” said Julie Kavanagh, (acting) manager of career development. “Going completely online has forced us to ramp up our offerings and it has been working really well for everyone.”

New online programs include a weekly career-focused workshop series covering such topics as job searches, interview skills, resumé and cover letter writing, using LinkedIn, and tips for remote working.

One of the most popular workshops to date has been an introduction to virtual career networking through platforms such as 10,000 Coffees.

“Students can get access to alumni and industry professionals, build networks and are matched with an alumnus based on their own interests and career goals,” said Ms. Kavanagh.

Attractive to students

The workshops are also being held in collaboration with career advisors in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Science and the School of Graduate Studies to allow for cross promotion and a wider range of student participation.

And, the online workshop participation rate is exponentially higher than traditional iterations; some workshops have had almost 200 people register.

“Memorial students would be lost without [Career Development]!” — Leah Curnew

As a result, career development staff have decided that online workshops will remain a core of their offerings regardless of when on-campus activities resume.

The flexibility of online delivery is proving to be exceptionally attractive to students.

Leah Curnew
Photo: Submitted

Leah Curnew is a second-year student in the master of science in medicine program. Previously, she was so busy  keeping up with the packed schedule of a graduate student that she was unable to make time for in-person workshops.

The flexibility of the online workshops opened up a whole new world to her.

The LinkedIn session and the resumé/cover letter workshops stand out for her as being particularly useful, including something as deceptively simple as how to craft a good cover letter.

“In the past, I had always described my experience and related that to the job I wanted. The workshop taught me that a cover letter can be used to explain what you would do in the position if you were hired,” said Ms. Curnew. “The cover letter doesn’t have to be limited to your past experiences.”

Ms. Curnew used this approach when applying for her current position as a graduate assistant in the School of Graduate Studies.

“The Career Development office is a wonderful organization with incredibly committed staff and Memorial students would be lost without them!”

Extra support

Another opportunity offered by the shift to online are resumé and cover letters critiques. Students can email resumés and Career Development staff will respond within 24 hours with feedback and tips.

Appointments for career counselling continue remotely by email, phone or Webex – whatever works best for students, says Ms. Kavanagh.

On the job front, opportunities for MUCEP, ISWEP and GradSWEP positions are available, as is the career job board that is populated regularly throughout the year.

Companies hiring

Regardless of current fears for the economy, companies are still hiring during the pandemic.  Johnson Insurance, part of the RSA Canada group of companies, recently hired 23 Memorial students from a variety of different backgrounds for full-time positions in its customer care centre.

“Memorial University students have already become welcome additions to many of our teams, as they consistently demonstrate the drive, determination and strong set of skills that we’re looking for,” said Anne Berend, senior vice-president and chief human resources officer, RSA Canada. “We encourage students who are interested in our organization to take a look at our website and set up a “career alert”, which will match new opportunities to their profile.”

Memorial is also stepping up as an employer in a significant way to support student employment. Units across the university have hired or will be hiring students in the coming weeks.

“This year’s challenges mean an even greater urgency to hire students as fewer sectors are hiring,” said Ann Browne, associate vice-president (facilities) at Memorial. “Summer employment with Memorial provides an opportunity for students to gain valuable experience while further connecting with the university and for administration to connect with students in a meaningful way.”

Ms. Kavanagh reiterates that career advisors are available for Memorial students at all levels of their career journey – and that includes alumni, as well.

“We are happy to chat with anyone who wants career advice. We know it’s a stressful time but we are here to help and to instill hope. There are multiple opportunities out there and different ways to use your degree. Don’t give up!”

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