Daniels Career Coach reflects on lessons learned from 2020
Jane Biglin is an associate director and career coach with Daniels Career Services. Biglin coaches graduate students and alumni in all areas of career development. She is an experienced business executive with more than 35 years working for Fortune 500 organizations. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Biglin and the Daniels Career Services team pivoted to an online environment and delivered an even higher level of service to Daniels students and alumni.
As a graduate career coach at the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business, I know all students benefit and receive value from engagement with a career coach in their job search. Students who engage with a coach have better job outcomes and are more prepared for the job market. The challenge, long before COVID-19, was convincing students of this value and motivating them to actively engage in the process. For various reasons outlined below, the pandemic has positively impacted the dynamic between student and coach, fundamentally changing the way we deliver our services now and in the future.
COVID-19 put the brakes on the job market for the better part of 2020 but that didn’t stop students from graduating from universities and seeking employment. A growing awareness that finding an internship or job was going to be more difficult during the pandemic likely led more students to seek out the support of their institutions’ career services representatives. Additionally, more students chose to enroll in school, perhaps a sanctuary from a stagnant job market, not dissimilar to the phenomenon during the financial crisis of 2008.
The graduate coaching team at Daniels anticipated this growing need for support and quickly designed a strategy to offer virtual services during the pandemic. The result was a phenomenal, blockbuster year for student engagement, a 140% increase in one-on-one coaching appointments year-over-year from fall 2019 to fall 2020.
Removing the barriers of engagement and offering flexible, efficient support accounted for the most notable factors in the rise of student engagement.
- Just-in-time coaching
- Career coaching support delivered how, when and where the student desired
- Easy access
- Zoom and phone appointments, including weekday evenings and email response on weekends
- Graduate students, often working and going to school, needed maximum flexibility to meet with a coach.
- Coaches became regular people on the Zoom screen or phone. This technology allowed for a more comfortable and inviting environment, eliminating the formality of an in-person appointment in an office setting.
- Students in bathrobes, dogs barking (and sometimes joining the meeting) made the conversations more genuine and comfortable.
- Technical ease
- Zoom allowed for ease of sharing a screen to view and edit a resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile on the fly.
- Zoom allowed coaches to share valuable online resources, demonstrate how to build professional networks and conduct prototype conversations.
- Remote coaching appointments allowed a continuation of student support in a safe and socially distanced environment. Previously, doing this in person was cumbersome and required close one-on-one contact, something not possible during the pandemic, and potentially still challenging post-pandemic.
- Coaching advice offered covered the full gamut, but students were encountering more video interviews and game simulation tests and needed guidance on preparation for these new modalities.
All in all, the COVID-19 pandemic forced our career coaching team to think differently about student needs. In the end, engagement between student and career coach increased dramatically and was a win-win but only after the pandemic forced us to view things through a different lens.
To learn more about Daniels Career Services, visit their website.