You’ve probably heard this is the worst job market since the Great Depression. You probably haven’t heard that through UCLA’s Career Center, students have access to more than 8,000 full-time job listings. In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, the center is continuing to offer a wide variety of valuable services for students, just as the UCLA Alumni Association does for graduates — for free.
It’s understandable that Bruins are experiencing doubt and uncertainty right now, say the people running these programs. After all, employment and internship opportunities have fallen across many industries, and some previous offers of work have been delayed, moved online or canceled altogether. But jobseekers shouldn’t lose hope, they stress. There are still plenty of paths forward.
“We’re encouraged by the opportunities available to Bruins,” said Carina Salazar, the Career Center’s senior associate director. “To graduating seniors, we say, we have experts who are here to support you with services to address your needs and to help guide you. We are here to help.”
Hassan Akmal, the center’s executive director, agrees. “Students and recent graduates should not lose confidence. While some fields are experiencing reductions, other areas remain steady.” He points to the pharmaceutical and medical-device industries, health care and other health services, and nonprofits as just a few of the areas that have weathered the crisis well and are hiring.
Akmal, a UCLA alumnus and former CEO of a nonprofit, says potential employers will be interested to see how students have spent their time during the pandemic — whether they’re taking their career development seriously and spending their time productively. He notes that there are plenty of innovative skill-building programs emerging, including paid virtual internships and shorter-term micro-internships that involve projects lasting from a week to a month, as well as other opportunities.
Above all, he says, students need to remain flexible and be ready to adjust when the situation demands it. Job-hunting in the time of COVID-19 requires new skills, a new outlook and a willingness to adapt.
“The ability for an individual to demonstrate effective adaptability to new and emerging technologies has increased,” he noted. “The importance of self-awareness, hustle, patience and global cultural fluency is increasing too.”
Career Center: ‘We are here to help’
“The Career Center is now providing students with more services than ever before, including one-on-one Zoom appointments with career counselors, virtual group sessions, webinars, and online career advice and coaching,” Salazar said.
She recommends that students’ first visit be to the center’s Handshake website, a valuable one-stop-shop resource available to all students that connects them with the center’s career-advising services, as well as to employers, jobs, internships, workshops and other events.
A recent virtual career fair hosted by the center through Handshake drew 199 employers from a variety of industries and more than 900 UCLA students, notes Stacy Ulery, the center’s assistant director for career education. For graduating seniors, the center has offered a number of virtual employment-related workshops this year, including “Stress and the Career Search in the Era of Covid-19,” which featured Career Center professionals and staff from UCLA’s Counseling and Psychological Services.
In addition, the center is continually updating its YouTube channel with tutorials and workshops, including “Launching Your Career in Uncertain Times,” “Grad School Webinar: Is Now the Best Time?” and “Gap Year Planning,” as well as tips on video-interviewing strategies and virtual networking.
Those virtual skills have become increasingly important now that in-person, face-to-face interaction is no longer possible, say center staff, who have worked with approximately 5,000 students on their resumes this year, helping them curate their digital presence on LinkedIn and other platforms.
“When you Google yourself, you want to be proud of what you see and what you have done. We provide one-to-one advising, as well as group sessions and many resources” to assist in this regard, said Ulery.
“Now more than ever,” Akmal added, “students are realizing that their self-awareness, brand and digital footprint — the content that they are putting out there for people to read, watch and follow — will open doors.”
Career Center staff advise students to be flexible, open-minded and proactive and to build relationships with professionals and alumni. M’Chelle Ryan, the center’s associate director for industry relations and experiential learning, recommends that undergraduates seek out professional mentors who can help them stay up to date with news and developments in their fields of interest and may invite them to engage in remote job shadowing.
As part of their ongoing efforts to assist students in the time of COVID-19, the Career Center is partnering with the UCLA Alumni Association on an upcoming program offering professional advice from alumni who graduated during the 2008 recession and have built successful careers.
Alumni Association: Helping grads and students through the crisis
The economic fallout of the pandemic hasn’t affected only students. UCLA alumni have also felt the pinch. The Alumni Association is ready to assist these Bruins, as well as to offer mentoring to students, during these uncertain times, says Gloria Ko, the Alumni Association’s senior director for alumni career engagement.
Among the many career services and programs for alumni, Ko highly recommends UCLA ONE, an online networking platform that graduates can use to search for jobs, obtain career advice, conduct informational interviews with professionals and make connections with Bruins in industries that interest them. Nearly 43,000 Bruins are on UCLA ONE. More than 14,000 of these alumni have signed up to answer students’ questions about careers and job-search strategies, and 4,500 of them have offered to be mentors, Ko said.
Other resources help keep graduates abreast of industry developments and professional opportunities during the pandemic. Bruin alumni regularly share career advice on the association’s Bruin Success podcast, for example, and the Bruin Professionals website hosts online meetings on a variety of topics, from real estate to medicine to law, providing an opportunity for alumni to share referrals, resources, information and ideas.
For graduates currently engaged in job searches, the Alumni Association offers free career webinars and a host of other employment and networking resources on their career engagement website.
“The Bruin community is here and ready to help,” said Ko. “Connect with our alumni network.”
UCLA alumni should also keep in mind that assistance is available from the wider community of University of California alumni, says Katrina Ward, who heads the UC Alumni Career Network. Since the pandemic began, she notes, there has been a much higher demand for career advice and services.
“We saw a spike starting in March, along with an increased willingness among alumni to volunteer,” said Ward, who also serves as the UCLA Alumni Association’s director of strategic outreach and engagement.
The UC network offers a host of career programs —including an upcoming virtual career fair on July 14–16 — videos and webinars on such topics as “Your job search during COVID-19” and “Professional presence in a (suddenly) remote world,” and targeted programs for Black alumni, alumni in the entertainment industry and those in state government, to name just a few.
The programs serving the career needs of alumni are free for all UC graduates, students and staff and are designed for all career levels, from recent graduates to professionals thinking about starting a second, or third, career.
The University of California has 2 million alumni, some 500,000 of whom are UCLA graduates. “Employers rightfully consider a UCLA degree to be very desirable,” Ward said. “I encourage Bruins to join UCLA ONE, to give back and to help one another.”
Ward says she has been heartened to see so many Bruins stepping up to assist one another. She advises graduates and alumni to remain positive and resilient in their job searches, and like Akmal, she says many industries and companies are hiring.
“The attitude is, ‘I’m here for you, you’re not alone,’” said Ward. “It’s been inspiring to see this in such an authentic way.”