Lexi Schnaser— Staff Writer
COVID-19’s impacts have permeated all aspects of life. One of these effects extends to career development. In this pandemic era, many jobs and internships have moved to virtual formats and many employers are not in the market to hire new workers in a time when budgets are tight.
The world of internships and jobs can be frightening for college students even during normal times. However, there is a place right on campus that can help Dordt University students and alumni navigate the world of career development.
Dordt University’s Career Development Center, staffed by Missy Mulder and Amy Westra, offers a variety of services to students, such as resume building, cover letter help, and mock interviews to help students negotiate job offers.
“Our goal is to equip students with what they need to land that first internship or job,” Westra, who has been part of the center for just over four years, said.
“We operate from an empowerment model, where we’re not going to do things for the students, but we want to give you the tools and skills to teach you how to do things by yourself.”
Lane Kieser, a junior physical education major, is one such student. He was in the process of applying for student teaching and wanted to make sure his resume was up to date.
“There was a lot of things in my resume that were outdated or not relevant. Missy explained really well why she was doing what she was doing,” Kieser said.
There is no such thing as a typical day for Mulder and Westra. Mulder primarily works with students on their resumes, personal statements, and cover letters. Her days consist of meeting with students to read through their resumes and emailing back and forth with students about resume revisions.
Westra’s days focus on planning and executing events such as job fairs, meeting with students for mock interviews, and analytics. She also spends most of her time working with employers to clarify position descriptions and set up opportunities for interactions between employers and Dordt students.
Jake Thorsteinson, a junior biology major, is thankful for his mock interview with Westra.
“When I was a freshman applying to be an RA, I heard that they did interviews. I went in and they had questions ready and gave me feedback on things I did well and some things to work on,” Thorsteinson said.
Mock interviews look very similar to a regular interview. Students will go and meet with Westra who will ask them a variety of potential interview questions. Some questions will be general, but others may be specific to the student’s career area or job they are interviewing for. After the questions are done, Westra will go through student’s answers with them and give them advice, such as certain buzzwords, to improve their interview performance.
“Having that experience really makes your nerves calm down when you get to the actual interview,” Thorsteinson said.
When COVID-19 caused Dordt students to finish last year virtually, Westra and Mulder had to work virtually too.
“We didn’t have as much interaction with students because no one was around. Everybody was just in their own survival mode after the announcement that we weren’t coming back,” Westra said.
The difficulties of virtual life gave Westra and Mulder new opportunities to expand their services.
“Our work changed from more helping individual students to working more on that equipping side,” Westra said. “What can we do to make sure the stuff that they need is available to students when they need it?”
One of the ways Mulder and Westra expanded their services was in building up the center’s Canvas page. This page is available to every student and has been around for about four years.
“I was finding students were making a lot of the same mistakes in their resumes, so I wanted to create something where students could learn some of that basic stuff before they come see me,” Mulder said. “And we wanted to give them access to that at any time and anywhere.”
Before quarantine, the page held resources for only resumes and cover letters. Now, there are pages to help with interviews, graduate school, networking, and even what to wear. All students have access to the Canvas page anywhere at any time.
One of the trends Mulder and Westra have noticed increasing during the time of COVID-19 is personal branding. Personal branding is becoming especially important because students are now competing for jobs with people who have already been in the workforce for years. Experienced people who lost their jobs to COVID-19 are now applying for entry level jobs.
“It means you have to build that personal professionalism so much faster,” Westra said.
“It’s always been important for students to come in early in your college career,” Mulder said. “With the job market changing, it’s even more important for the underclassmen to start thinking of themselves as professionals earlier.”
For students who have not yet met with Mulder and Westra to help develop their resumes and personal brand, Mulder and Westra say not to let the fear paralyze them.
“Come on in and see us,” Mulder said. “We’ll help.”
“You just have to take one step today,” Westra said.
Kieser says taking the little bit of time it takes to get help now is worth it if it will benefit students later.
“Ask yourself if you know what a cover letter is, and if you don’t, then you should probably go see career development,” Thorsteinson said.
Mulder and Westra are more than happy to meet with students in person, and they are willing to meet virtually as well. Whether you are a sophomore looking for an internship or a senior applying to graduate school, stop into student services to be met with the smiling faces of Mulder and Westra.