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Virtual job hunting: Career Center offers advice for success despite strange times

Woman at computer

Lisa DeWeert '18 is a graduate assistant at the ISU Career Center.

Lisa DeWeert ’18 recently had a Zoom job interview from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., with 10 minutes between conversations. What did she do during those breaks?

“I ran around outside,” she said, laughing. “I did lunges in the backyard.”

Interviewing isn’t new to her. The graduate assistant in ISU’s Career Center mentors students on interviewing skills. Since students left campus in March, she’s been doing virtual coaching, including resume reviews and practice interviews.

DeWeert understands that none of this is easy for Redbirds. She studied communication as an undergraduate and is completing a master’s degree in the same field. She postponed her May graduation until August after struggling to finish her thesis over spring break.

“I was focused on other things the last few weeks and decided it was not worth the stress,” she said. “I want my thesis to be my best work, and I do not have the mental capacity to make it my best right now. Many things I was looking forward to, such as presenting at a conference, were cancelled. I decided I needed to take a breath and give myself time to mourn those things and move forward.”

DeWeert understands when students call her to talk about how the coronavirus (COVID-19) is affecting them. Some share their disappointment that internships and offers have been rescinded. Others are worried as employers push back start dates. Some have decided to look at graduate school.

“Navigating next steps with all students is hard,” DeWeert said. “You just have to be flexible. I Zoom with students pretty much every day, talk about their career path, and how this is impacting them.”

Despite the struggle of searching for work during a pandemic, there are advantages to virtual interviewing, she said. Job seekers can put their resume and notes in front of them. DeWeert sat at her dining room table for her interview, with key words on sticky notes.

She tells students to dress as if they were interviewing in person, and pay attention to what’s on the walls in the background.

Career Center Assistant Director Susan Whitsitt encourages students to make an appointment with career advisors by phone, email, or Zoom. She also emphasizes the need to remain flexible. “Look broader than what’s currently on your radar list. You can still use those excellent skills you have but if you’re only looking in one direction, you can miss other opportunities. We’re hearing from employers regularly about positions they’re still recruiting for and need to get filled soon.”

The Career Center offers a slew of virtual tools to help students find jobs, from online drop-in hours and practice interviews to the job posting board Hire-A-Redbird that lists openings across the globe. Ways to maximize LinkedIn will be the focus of a Zoom session arranged by the center for 11 a.m. on April 16. The one-hour event titled “Rock Your LinkedIn Profile” will feature Bill Dwoinen ’04, LinkedIn’s manager for solutions key accounts for North America. He will provide strategies on how to build and use a profile.

Whitsitt said a variety of employers are seeking a range professional skills, and encouraged students to regularly check LinkedIn and Hire-A-Redbird. For employers accepting applications, go to News.IllinoisState.edu/-2020/04/list-of-career-opportunities-help-redbirds-continue-to-rise/. Use Interview Stream to prepare for interviews. The online video practice tool allows students to record and share their interview with their career advisor for feedback. It’s also a good way for users to evaluate their nonverbal communications skills.

Student Affairs Assistant Vice President Danielle Miller-Schuster ’97, M.S. ’98, Ph.D. ’14, believes Redbirds have another advantage as they’re job hunting that goes beyond the help provided by the Career Center.

“ISU has a national reputation for premier undergraduate and graduate programs. Our students are well-prepared,” she said. “Although this is a challenging time for everyone, our Redbirds have the education and experiences they need to take this next step and make a difference wherever they land.”