UMass Amherst Career Development Adapts to Changing Times

COVID-19 prompts new strategies to support students in uncertain job market

AMHERST, Mass. – Career Development and Professional Connections at UMass Amherst has adapted quickly to the fast-evolving situation resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. From surveying employers who are still hiring to offering students virtual support, the Career Development staff has been working to help prepare students facing an uncertain job market.

The staff have surveyed the major employers it regularly is in contact with to see who is still hiring and what positions are available. According to Cheryl Brooks, associate provost for career and professional development, 80 percent of employers in April said they were honoring full-time offers, though some said they have delayed start dates. A follow-up survey in May showed that 52.6% said they had no plan to change their hiring, while 31.7% said they are delaying start-dates or starting with remote work, and 10.1% said they have implemented a hiring freeze.

“Like many employers big and small, we have had to innovate and get creative with the services we provide to our students,” said Brooks. “We are committed to helping our students navigate these uncertain times as they transition into the world of work.”

On the Handshake job board that Career Development uses to post jobs and internships, 500 major employers (87 in Massachusetts) are still hiring. Some of the Massachusetts employers still hiring include FormLabs, Riverside Research, Phillips, Mass General Hospital, Liberty Mutual, Aflac, Amazon, Hubspot, Meditech, Management Solutions, Ignite Mental Health, City Year, Education First, Cushman & Wakefield, TJX and National Grid. Some companies that canceled their summer internship programs have instead extended full-time job offers to those juniors for next year 2021, such as Enterprise Holdings, AlphaSights and TJX.

Brooks said while new job and internship postings are down about 40% from last year as a result of the pandemic, it is important to note that employers are still posting jobs and internships. In fact, 458 new jobs and internships posted to Handshake just last week, and 5,721 new opportunities have been posted to Handshake since spring break.

To help students garner professional experience, Career Development has also partnered with Parker Dewey to connect students to micro-internships, which are five to 40 hours total of remote work projects and are paid. Students can participate in multiple micro-internships.

Brooks said largest hiring sectors include K-12 education, non-profits, healthcare, research and Internet and software companies. Hardest hit during the pandemic have been hotel, restaurant management, hospitality, tourism, performing arts and oil and gas.

The Career Development staff also have created virtual support for students through an eight-week series called “How to Be Successful in a Virtual World,” that includes workshops, webinars, articles and other resources directed toward virtual career development. They also have partnered with an alumnus from LinkedIn to do a live webinar, “How to Rock Your LinkedIn Profile.” The staff also held an employer panel to discuss resumes and how to stand out, workshops on creating a portfolio, and how to do well in virtual interviews. Career Center staff across campus continue to plan more virtual events such as webinars, workshops and alumni meet-ups to help students navigate the job market.

Turning to the fall semester, Brooks said that campus will offer virtual career fairs that will be different than in-person fairs, likely focusing on specific industries or majors and large companies hiring over multiple units.