Getting a job during a pandemic: Tips from Kent McAnally

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world as we know it. One of the more important aspects of the pandemic’s impact is many people’s source of income. Employment has been hit hard since the start of the pandemic. Restaurants closed, schools shut down, and stores were forced to take a break. With the halt of many important businesses came unemployment. Kent McAnally, director of career services at Washburn University, spoke with me about the pandemic’s hard hit to the job market.
McAnally has been at Washburn for more than 14 years and has helped to guide students in their career choices.
“At Washburn, career services is what I refer to as a comprehensive career services office,” McAnally said. “We work with students who are trying to decide what to major in, what they want to do after college, or in some cases, they are looking for a part-time job. Beyond that we work with preparing students for what comes next after Washburn whether that may be looking for a job or additional education.”
Beyond working with students, career services is willing to do its best to make sure each student succeeds.
“What we spend time on is working with students individually on resumes, cover letters, interviews, networking, class presentations on career and development topics, and sponsoring events that allow students to network with employers,” McAnally said.
Being able to understand how the business world works is always useful, pandemic or not.
College students are always looking for jobs with flexible hours and a wage that will help support them. Taking these factors into consideration, there is nothing better than an on-campus job.
With schedules to accommodate classes and many departments to choose from, on-campus jobs are an easy way to build a resume and earn money while doing so. I have two on-campus jobs. Both of them are filled with supportive staff and learning experiences.
One of the most important aspects of finding a job is networking. Networking is interacting with others to exchange information and to build professional or social contacts.
“Networking doesn’t have to be face-to-face anymore,” McAnally said. “LinkedIn revolutionized this idea about what networking actually was. At the same time though, we saw that the primary networking events were career fairs or job fairs. You show up in your suit with your resume in your hand and you go around and talk with employers you are interested in and leave your resume.”
Career fairs are an important aspect of job hunting as well. Finding employers that you are interested in and being able to make a good first impression is essential. Career fairs open doors for those looking for jobs after college and are good for finding paid internships.
Washburn holds career fairs that are open to all students. Due to the pandemic, many career fairs, including Washburn’s own, have switched to a virtual format.
Virtual career fairs make it possible for employers that are on the other end of the country to participate in virtual career fairs and have the opportunity to meet with students from all over.
Finding a job opportunity is only half the battle. You have to make a lasting impression on employers.
“You have to look good on camera, you have to pay attention to your background, and you still have to be able to introduce yourself effectively and speak well about your abilities and accomplishments,” McAnally said.
“We have a ton of employers that are scheduling their own kind of get to know us events and those are all on Handshake under the ‘your events’ tab and you can register to attend those,” McAnally said.
Washburn offers a Handshake account to every Washburn student at no additional cost.
“We are connected to around seven thousand employers and that grows every day,” said McAnally. “Those employers are from coast to coast and even some programs and organizations are from overseas.”
With Handshake, seeking employment is easy and fast. HandShake is just one of the resources that career services provide to job-seeking students.
“We have lots of resources that cover a variety of topics that have to do with employment,” McAnally said.
Going virtual last spring took a toll on everyone, but career services was still there for students. “We created a set of links that we thought were particularly helpful for the situation,” McAnally said. “When you go to the home page of career services, right in the middle of that page is a link to a page of resources for looking for a job during COVID-19. There are two different sections for looking for internships and looking for jobs.”
Despite the current challenges, McAnally was positive about the job market’s outlook.
“We will get a lot of people back to work, but in the meantime, you have to be persistent and patient and that’s really hard to do,” McAnally said.
With the slow decline of COVID-19 cases and the increase in people who are getting vaccinated, the world seems to be getting back on track and the job market should soon follow.