Virtual Interface Allows UTEP University Career Center to Help Students with Job Searches, Preparation
Last Updated on May 19, 2020 at 12:00 AM
Originally published May 19, 2020
By Elizabeth Ashby
For more than 2,300 seniors at The University of Texas at El Paso, countless hours of hard work culminated when they were awarded their degrees this spring.
The usual celebrations have been delayed in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, and the impact of quarantines and social distancing around the country have significantly impacted the global economy.
When it became clear that the spring 2020 semester would deviate from its traditional conclusion, the staff at the University Career Center acted quickly to shift their valuable services to a virtual format after UTEP transitioned to distance learning in March.
Every week, students are able to meet with the Career Center staff on Microsoft Teams and other video conferencing platforms from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to utilize many of their usual suite of services, including resume reviews, mock interviews and career advising.
The staff also launched the Virtual Career Center, which includes links to resume and cover letter virtual reviews, virtual interview tips, links to job postings, and video tutorials. Faculty members can find information on professional development workshops and links to academic college liaisons, while employers can post jobs and internships.
“In the midst of this global pandemic, we want to ensure that we do everything we can to help our talented and motivated students reach their goals,” said Louie Rodriguez, associate vice president for divisional operations and strategic initiatives, who oversees the University Career Center staff. “We are working to help our students navigate these unprecedented circumstances and feel empowered with the knowledge and skills they gained during their time at UTEP.”
Aside from providing a range of resources available on the website, the Career Center staff remains focused on helping students hone the soft skills needed to successfully represent themselves in an unpredictable job market. Staff consult on resumes and career searches, as well as job interviews via video conferencing software that are the most common option when an in-person interview is not possible.
University Career Center Director Betsy Castro-Duarte said the consultations they provide students on virtual interviews is not that much of a departure from their other programming throughout the year, such as their Dinner Etiquette events.
“We teach you the mechanics so that you can tell your story to an employer,” she said. “Same thing with technology. You need to be able to be at ease and have an idea of what you're going to say with some of those common interview questions.”
Castro-Duarte pointed to the fact that each college has a liaison who helps students with their specific job-hunting queries. One such student was senior marketing major Evelyn Lopez, who was referred to Pamela Prieto, the liaison for the College of Business Administration. During their one-on-one consultation over Zoom, Lopez said she was able to see which revisions needed to be made and walk through those changes with Prieto.
“After our meeting, Ms. Prieto sent back my resume with the highlighted revisions, and on my own time, I was able to make the necessary corrections,” Lopez said.
After that consultation, Lopez was accepted into AmeriCorps’ BRACE Play, Learn, Grow Summer Camp in Pensacola, Florida, where she will be engaging with the community and informing them on how to prepare for natural disasters.
“Ms. Prieto was super helpful and professional, and not too long after our meeting, I was selected as a summer associate for the camp,” Lopez said.
Staff members have also been busy this spring creating college-specific guides titled “Graduating in the Time of COVID-19,” which detail how students can plan for long-term success, proactively search for a job and build their skill sets in this context. They have also coordinated with other higher education institutions to pool resources, including a virtual career fair for students, and worked with existing employer partners who might still be hiring or to maintain contact for when hiring resumes.
Micah Lindsey, who recently earned a graduate degree in English, has adjusted to this new context. He set up a resume review through the Virtual Career Center website to prepare for entering the job market after earning his degree. A self-described introvert, he was able to easily adapt to the virtual consultation process with the career center staff.
“During my resume review, there were things that they shifted and moved around, and then we went down to the micro-level, where they would look at how I wrote something and talk about the difference between what I wrote and what is usually expected from resumes, so that was really helpful as well,” he said.
Students, including those who have earned their degrees, have an opportunity to join more virtual events, including a virtual career fair June 16. Staff will continue to assist students throughout the summer, and they are posting regular updates on their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
Castro-Duarte emphasized the importance of students taking advantage of the resources and guidance available to them at the Career Center, which can help give them the agency to be proactive in a volatile market.
“Students need to realize that this is something that’s not within their control, but what they can control is what they do with this time,” she said.