The days of trying to impress potential employers with a firm handshake or an elevator pitch over a cup of coffee are long gone, at least for the time being. Amid an increasingly virtual job market, many college students and recent graduates are struggling to form connections with employers, according to Joseph Du Pont, associate vice president of Boston College’s Career Services.
“What’s been, I think, challenging for students, is how do you actually engage with employers in a way that’s sort of authentic and genuine still in a virtual environment?,” he said.
In an effort to help students build connections with employers in this new, virtual format, BC’s Career Center has moved their existing programming online.
Endeavor, which has been held annually since its creation in January of 2016, has previously consisted of group workshops in Gasson Hall, networking seminars in Devlin Hall, and alumni panels all across campus. This year, the three-day career exploration program will be virtual and will begin on Jan. 13.
“It’s a great opportunity for students to build connections with employers, create meaningful connections with alumni, and most importantly, do some vocational discernment and figure out where they are and where they want to go,” Du Pont said. “Really, the main focus is to help you articulate how your liberal arts skills translate to careers.”
This year, Endeavor’s keynote speaker will be Yolanda Lyle, BC ’94 and BC Law ’01, who currently serves as vice president of executive operations and chief of staff to the chairman and CEO of Pfizer, Albert Bourla. Du Pont said that, in light of the Food and Federal Drug Administration’s recent approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, the Career Center is excited for students to hear from an alumna who works with such an important company.
Aside from hosting a keynote speaker, Endeavor will offer 17 potential career tracks for students to explore, including healthcare, social service, and finance. More than 100 alumni will attend the program virtually, according to Du Pont.
Students will work on skill-building with peer fellows—students who attended the program in the past and are trained to help current attendees—before meeting with alumni mentors in small groups. Students will also virtually “visit” various companies through panels of mainly BC alumni.
“The idea is really for students to see how, regardless of their major, their liberal arts skill set is really valued,” Du Pont said. “It’s just a really good experience for a lot of students that kind of opens their eyes.”
The Career Center is also promoting a January Challenge, which provides students with a list of career preparation and exploration goals to complete during the month.
In February, the Career Center will host the Virtual Spring Career and Internship Fair. Though Du Pont admitted that the online format is less than ideal, he said that this format does have some benefits. The fall career fair, which was held over Handshake in September, hosted virtual sessions with 120 companies, with recruiters holding 2,075 individual sessions with students.
“Employers really actually like this format in many respects because students opt in to see them, so they know that everyone walking by their virtual table is someone who’s truly interested in their company,” he said.
Du Pont said that students now have the option to talk to alumni across the world at these career events, something that was not possible in person. Employers are realizing that virtual visits allow them to cut travel expenses, he said.
Though the Career Center plans to bring back in-person services once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, Du Pont said that they might incorporate some of these online programs and services moving forward.
“We will always pride ourselves in our in-person service,” DuPont said. “That will be constant. That will not go away. But the ability to use technology to enhance that, to bring in alums and employers from around the world, to allow students to visit our Career Center without having to leave wherever they are in the world. I think that sort of thing is here to stay.”
Du Pont said that he wants students to realize how much support they have from the BC community, especially through mentorship platforms like Eagle Exchange, which helps facilitate connections among over 11,000 BC alumni.
“There’s so many people in the BC community that want to help,” he said. “We’re very lucky to have a great employer base who’s excited about Boston College students … Our alumni base is so willing to help our students, and that translates in so many different ways.”
Featured Image by Meegan Minahan / Heights Editor