Western Illinois University Career Center Adapting During Pandemic to Help Students Prepare for Careers After Graduation
MACOMB/Moline, IL – Western Illinois University strives to prepare its students for the wider world of jobs and higher education in a variety of ways. One of the most valuable resources at the disposal of students at Western is the Center for Career Preparation and Employer Engagement.
According to the mission statement of the Career Center, “The mission of the Center for Career Preparation and Employer Engagement is to support students and alumni by empowering individuals to create and achieve their goals through active career planning and preparation. The Career Center offers engaging programming through individual appointments, workshops, and partnerships with employers and faculty/staff members to ensure a successful transition between college and professional careers.”
After the unfortunate events following the COVID-19 pandemic of this past year, WIU has been faced with the challenge of creating new and innovative ways to bring the same level of care to its students during times when person-to-person contact just is not possible. In this light, the Center for Career Preparation and Employer Engagement has gone above and beyond to meet the needs and requirements of the student body of Western in a variety of ways.
“Well obviously after the pandemic things had to change, so we’ve pivoted to fully virtual this past year for both appts and fairs, with plans to do a mix in the future to meet both student and employer needs,” said Audrey Adamson, director of the Center for Career Preparations and Employer Engagement.
The Career Center also makes use of “Handshake,” a platform dedicated to connecting future employees and employers, as well as internship programs in an entirely virtual environment. Through Handshake, students, alumni, faculty and employers are given the unique opportunity to come together and network through online forum posts regarding the interests of the platform’s users.
The platform has new users fill in information pertinent to their job-hunting and past experience, and puts them in contact with job postings from employers all across the country, giving students a greater opportunity to reach out to companies that they may not have had the chance to speak to beforehand. WIU utilizes this platform for job postings, scheduling interview appointments and event planning.
Adamson said the center’s activities since the start of the Fall 2020 semester have included a total of nine virtual career fairs between Fall 2020 and Spring 2021.
“This includes opportunities for our students to talk to 317 employers from across this region of the country, even some employers that wouldn’t have made it out this far before the pandemic, so this virtual environment has made it much easier for students, alumni, and employers to get a chance to make that connection going forward after a student’s graduation,” said Adamson.
So far, we’ve had 1,072 students and alumni register for our virtual fairs, with a grand total of 576 students checking in on event days, attending at least one session.”
Spring 2021 has been a busy season for the Career Center as well, with over 320 virtual student appointments completed, including help with creating resumes, advise for cover letters, traversing the interviewing process, and finding the perfect careers after graduation. So far this semester, the Career Center has hosted over 200 total student participants across 37 workshops and presentations hosted by WIU, both virtual and in-person with 79 students participating in employer-hosted virtual events.
For many students, virtual appointments and events have made career resources more accessible. Although the Career Center plans to offer in person experiences next year, virtual options will continue to be available to assure that everyone can connect with the Career Center in the way that works best for them. The Career Center is open all summer, so students and alumni can reach out for assistance at any time at their convenience.