ALMA — Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, the Alma College Center for Student Opportunity (CSO) has taken on a number of new initiatives designed to help recent or soon-to-be graduates.
The pandemic has indirectly resulted in budget cuts and hiring freezes, which is affecting the class of 2020 in deep and meaningful ways, said Carla Jensen, the center’s director of career development. But with help from the CSO, she says, the class of 2020 has the skills they need to get jobs they care about.
“We recognize that graduation can often be stressful anyways, and this year our graduates are facing unique challenges. Many have expressed that they are uncertain about the job market since many organizations are facing budget cuts and, in some cases, hiring freezes,” Jensen said. “While this can be discouraging, we’re helping our graduates make the most of this time.”
The center is working with two recent alumni to manage a LinkedIn group, “Career Creators.” In this online environment, alumni and staff post helpful resources, advice and host webinars around topics such as motivation, networking, grad school and job searching.
“Alma has one of the best alumni networks out there,” Jensen said. “This group was formed to be a ‘safe space’ where students can talk about their concerns and have genuine discussions. The group has over 100 members and has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from graduates and current students.”
The center is providing students with information on how to be successful in virtual internships, as well as access to an online platform that helps improve interview skills and receive feedback on their own time without an appointment. It’s also offering individual outreach to every graduating senior, with information on how to schedule an appointment for more personal assistance.
“While these resources are available to graduates every year, we’ve been taking special care to make sure every graduate was contacted personally this year,” Jensen said.
Finally, the center is sending its First Destination Survey — which helps identify where Alma graduates start their careers and continue their education after they leave the college — earlier than in most years, and doing so on a more individualized level.
Jensen said the center will be making personal phone calls throughout the summer to make sure grads have the support they need.
“One of the highlights of our office is that we serve alumni for life, and we’re really focusing on that this year,” she added.
Bridget Flanery, a graduating senior, credits some of her success in navigating the job market to the center. Flanery, an environmental policy major from Sparta, has a job lined up through the AmeriCorps City Year program after her graduation.
“I am relieved by how well it has worked out,” said Flanery, who intends to move to Denver for a job as a K-12 behavioral and academic coach and eventually plans to go to graduate school. “When I was in college, every time I was applying for a summer internship, I knew I could go to the CSO and work on my resume or interview skills. Getting those internships has put me in a better position now that I’m in the job market.
“Students have the opportunity to work with anyone at Alma College to get a job they can do well in. Now that I’ve graduated, I would say no student should be afraid to make an appointment with the center and see how they can help,” she added.
Alma College graduates and student interns are considered a prize on the job market, thanks in large part to their development from the Center for Student Opportunity, said Garnet Johnson, remediation director at the Lansing-based environmental consulting firm Triterra.
Johnson himself utilizes the center for internships and job postings, and for the past two years has offered an internship exclusively to Alma College students.
“The center serves as a conduit to those students and helps us with the logistics of interviews, resumes and cover letters,” said Johnson, a 2003 Alma College grad. “We have had great success with both our interns and full-time hires from Alma College. Their ability to think critically and work hard are things that we don’t always get from applicants of other institutions.”