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CCAP Preps Class of 2021 for Career Search Success

March 23, 2021

The transition from college to a full-time job opportunity can be challenging for soon-to-be graduates, especially during a global pandemic. In fact, it’s estimated that the average time for a May 2021 graduate to find a job is nine months. Thankfully, the Center for Career and Academic Planning (CCAP) is here to ease that process for Fisher students.

Dr. Julia Overton-Healy, director of career services, said CCAP’s top priority is to provide support for students during their job search and coach employers so they can create successful internship and recruitment programs. When COVID-19 hit, CCAP adeptly reimagined their services to help students navigate a different career search scenario.

Staff helped students become better acquainted with video communication technologies and prepare for virtual interactions and networking opportunities. Students also had the opportunity to read resources on networking, career exploration, interviewing techniques, and creating résumés and cover letters. CCAP’s services continued into the summer with new daily drop-in sessions with career support advisors and last fall, the Center continued to reach out to new graduates who reported “still looking” on an initial First Destination Survey. The three-person team directly emailed and called new graduates to offer career coaching and job search support.

Earlier this month, CCAP held a virtual Big Fair, an annual career fair for all majors and years. The virtual event boasted a record number of participants with more than 300 students joining throughout the day. The one-on-one 10-minute sessions gave students an opportunity to privately speak with a company recruiter and form personal connections with them. Group sessions let students have anonymity while they learned more about a company alongside their peers. Overton-Healy said that students reported loving the efficiency, convenience, and comfortability of the virtual event.

Even though Overton-Healy believes students still need to be able to interact with employers properly in-person, she agrees that the virtual environment is what students also need to be comfortable with.

“People often say ‘when we get back to normal’, but there is no going back,” Overton-Healy said. “We are redefining normal now.” 

Students weren’t the only ones that enjoyed the virtual environment. Overton-Healy said employers loved the Big Fair’s new format because it allowed them to meet a fresh batch of students every 20 minutes and felt that their time interacting with Fisher students was well spent. The Big Fair will continue to be in a virtual format for the foreseeable future.

Despite the pandemic, Overton-Healy believes that 2021 graduates will have a better job market then last year’s graduating class.

The advantage for young people is that they are much more comfortable with the technology needed for a virtual environment, said Overton-Healy. Everything including being comfortable on camera, utilizing social media to network, and being familiar with technological tools are all skills that upcoming graduates can leverage during their job search.

“The trick for students is to not think of their career path from ‘I study this so I must be doing this.’ You need to think about what is your total skill set is and how you package that as what you can bring into the workplace,” Overton-Healy explained. “Students need to shift away from ‘my major is my destiny.’”

In addition, Overton-Healy suggests students gain an understanding of labor market trends. She points to the travel and hospitality industry, which has suffered due to travel restrictions because of the pandemic and will take time to rebuild. For students who are serious about entering the travel and hospitality industry, she said patience is needed while it rebounds.

“They need to be reading articles about travel and tourism and how it’s adapting to a post-COVID economy. The more they stay on top of trends and forecasting, the better,” advised Overton-Healy. “They can simply follow travel, tourism, hospitality companies online to see what they are saying. I also recommend Inc. Magazine and Forbes.”

Stable industries like the technology and health care fields are recommended even if your major does not specifically fit. These industries always need communications, business, marketing, and sales professionals, as well. Sales, says Overton-Healy, is often an overlooked career even though every industry always needs great sales people.

If you are having a difficult time searching for jobs after graduation, graduate school is always a valuable option.

“We know from history that anytime there is an economic downturn, that enrollment in graduate school goes up,” said Overton-Healy. “I think that graduate school makes sense depending on what you want to do.”

This article was written by Riley Moscicki '21, an intern in the Office of Marketing and Communications.

“There’s plenty of stuff you can do to make yourself marketable,” she added. “Use your time to take these free online classes [LinkedIn Learning and Cours] and educate yourself and get some online certifications - that just makes you more marketable.”

Besides focusing on the career fair and helping students with their career search, CCAP is concentrating on educating students as well. The Center is hosting a series of career conversations centered around inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility with Fisher alumni. The four sessions will have panelists that are part of the female, LGBTQ, people of color, and neurodiversity communities.

Visit CCAP online for more information about upcoming events.