Photo by Avanell Chang.
“The pandemic has shined a light on how important it is for employees to be agile, flexible and able to problem-solve — which are core skills that students flex all the time at Holy Cross,” says Amy Murphy, director of the Center for Career Development (CCD). “It has become abundantly clear to employers that they need employees who can do that — and that is who’s going to be successful.”
This year, Murphy says her CCD team has embraced new approaches while leveraging their existing digital platforms to help students set themselves up for success after graduation. “We were luckily in a really good place operationally to continue counseling, advising and coaching because we’ve always supported our students who are studying abroad or participating in the Washington or New York City semester programs,” Murphy explains about operating remotely.
The CCD not only provides resources and training to develop skills like interviewing and writing resumes and cover letters, but it also helps students discover their passions, connect with alumni and employers and obtain hands-on experiences in their fields of interest. No matter where students are in the process, they can schedule time with career counselors and take advantage of the CCD’s many services and events.
Murphy says it has been especially important this year to take a whole-person approach and survey students about how they want to consume career-related information. “We invested a lot of time and effort into standing up on-demand content,” explains Murphy, noting this lets students access resources “on their own time, when they have that mental space.”
Information is often packaged and tailored for specific classes, like the “Destination ’21” campaign for seniors and the “Three-to-Go” campaign for sophomores. A “New Year Career Resolutions” campaign in January delivered videos, handouts and tips every Monday to students’ inboxes.
Murphy says going virtual with career and graduate school fairs, alumni panels and networking events has made it simpler than ever to attend. And alumni based across the country have been able to easily sit on online panels. She also notes that the virtual format gives students who are hesitant about networking the chance to dip a toe in — while still allowing those who feel ready to take more active roles in virtual breakout rooms.
In February and March, the CCD is hosting industry-specific networking nights featuring alumni working across a wide range of fields, including: communications and media; business; human services; government; health professions; fashion and beauty; and science, technology and engineering. Sessions like these are important, Murphy says, because they allow alumni to offer more targeted advice.
In light of the many inequities brought to the forefront over the past year, Murphy says that these sessions will also give alumni a space to share how they live the Holy Cross mission and strive to be forces for change in their careers. “It’s so great being at a place like Holy Cross where you really can ask these tough questions,” she says.
Murphy emphasizes that being a student at Holy Cross gives you access not only to an education that is relevant across industries but also to thousands of alumni who are eager to expose you to various fields, coach you, and help you “talk about your Holy Cross experience in a way that’s valuable to employers.”
In her keynote address at this fall’s Senior Alumni Networking Event, Melisa Alves ’06 stressed that “networking is about telling your own story.” Alves, who previously worked at Holy Cross in the CCD and is now director of Fitchburg State University’s Career Services and Advising Center, reminded students: “Don’t forget that one of your greatest resources is at your fingertips. Holy Cross alumni are here to support you.”
Murphy says alumni have “stepped up in phenomenal ways.” Last summer, when many students had internship opportunities disappear due to the pandemic, alumni jumped in to help. “They’ve been unbelievable,” she says. Thanks to their enthusiasm, the CCD has even been able to roll out a new short-term projects initiative. These two- to four-week “project-based opportunities” with alumni represent a new wave in the experiential learning space, Murphy says, and are something the CCD is excited to embrace.
Murphy notes that the College also offers various resources for alumni on their career journeys. “Part of graduating from Holy Cross is that you’ll always have access to that,” she says.
“I think the strength of Holy Cross is that our grads will be positioned for success during and after the pandemic,” Murphy adds. “Those graduating students who have had to reinvent or tweak their plans have the privilege of doing that because of the education that they have. They can pivot. They can be nimble.”
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