Over the last few weeks, college students have had to shift gears to cope with the reality that they won’t return to campus for the Spring 2020 semester. The mandates associated with COVID-19 stripped many students of their final college moments in a mass-social effort to flatten the curve of the pandemic.
During a crisis, your students cope with more than most could imagine. They may need to transition to online classes abruptly, and for many, graduation dates could be derailed. Beyond the upset of their education plan, upcoming graduates and students were looking to enter the workforce and summer internships. The various unknowns associated with a crisis, however, means both of these could become more challenging as well.
Businesses close, hiring is put on hold, and millions end up unemployed or working remotely. Without knowing when the impacts will end, your students are likely to panic about their future job security. As a career services professional, you have the power to help college students look beyond the uncertainties and remain focused on a positive future.
Here’s how you can help them stay on track during a crisis:
1. Share FACTS with students
Information about a crisis is virtually everywhere. News updates, memes, personal social shares — there’s no escaping the media mayhem that is attached to a crisis. Unfortunately, much of what’s presented is often unsubstantiated, outdated, or just plain fear-mongering.
Help college students remain informed and level-headed during a time of crisis. Offer facts from reliable sources in a crisis communication newsletter to give students the most accurate and up-to-date information possible. Share tips on what they can do to stay safe and link directly to the college’s website for details regarding how the crisis is impacting school operations.
Along with crisis updates, send them information regarding any changes in their education and employment opportunities. Consider sharing:
- What students can do if they’re experiencing anxiety regarding their future
- Volunteer opportunities for students (whether through campus or in the community)
- Reschedule dates for career fairs and networking events
- Employment or internship opportunities that may see a delay
- Any roles that have immediate openings due to the specific crisis
These details give them the power to make educated decisions that will keep them safe and healthy while giving them a sense of security about their future.
2. Keep an open ‘virtual’ door
During a crisis, more than ever, students need open and clear communication from your office. Support is the underlying factor that will move them through these uncertain times.
Reach out to let students know your ‘virtual’ door is open. Set office hours, even if the campus shuts down, to allow students to chat live with you via Skype or GoogleHangouts. Also, create a place where students can discuss their concerns, trials, and triumphs with one another. In this space, they’ll have the support of peers, and you can address common concerns in one space.
Determine what hours you plan to check emails and other urgent messages and let students know how long they can expect to wait to hear back from you. If you plan to be available to talk by phone, create a calendar to share with students so they can schedule times for a call. Ultimately, you want students to feel like your availability to them is a constant during a time when everything feels out of their control.
3. Remind students to use their resources
While graduation may be delayed, and many internships and job opportunities will be disrupted, it’s important to remind your students that this is temporary. They still have many resources at their disposal to ensure their career plans stay the course.
Share virtual networking tips to ensure they’re staying connected with professionals in their fields of study. LinkedIn, for example, is a place where professionals join together to support one another. And nothing brings people closer together than a time of crisis.
This is an ample opportunity for students to join in on the discussions to learn more about the impact of the crisis on companies or interest and, better yet, find out how those companies are making a positive social impact. There may even be opportunities for students to get involved with the initiatives of various organizations.
Additionally, as course-work wraps up, if social distancing remains a high-priority or businesses are slow to rebuild and reopen, your college students will have time to update their application materials.
Share these free tools to help them get started:
4. Schedule check-ins
At times, students are likely to feel stagnant. Virtual courses eventually end, internships and hiring are on hold for many organizations, and students will feel the anxiety associated with not being able to move forward. Keep them in motion through conducting scheduled check-ins.
Schedule time with students to review their application materials. Help them set deadlines to pull their materials together and send them to you for review. Then schedule a call or video conference to review updates in real-time or plan next-steps, such as a practice phone or video interview.
Encourage students to treat practice runs as a real interview. They should ‘arrive’ on time, dress appropriately, stage a professional-looking background, and ensure there are as few disruptions as possible. Once they complete the interview, send notes discussing what they did well and where they can improve.
Attach resources to follow-up correspondences to encourage them to be intentional and proactive during unexpected times. As a result, your students will feel as though they’re working toward their career goals, even if the world isn’t ready to move them into the workforce just yet.