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Student Career Growth in the Current Environment: Four Key Practices

We talked to students from GBSN member schools and gleaned their insights on finding new career opportunities in the midst of a pandemic.

Nearly 25 million jobs could be lost globally due to the coronavirus, according to the UN labor organization. Indeed, a Google search “unemployment coronavirus” returns a steady stream of other harrowing statistics from country to country. These data reflect the daunting realities being faced by graduating students and the career relations professionals who support them.

We reached out to several GBSN member schools and asked to speak with students who have been successful in landing jobs. They felt fortunate and were quick to give credit to the school-based career professionals that helped them. From these conversations, we distilled four key career center actions that were particularly impactful in the current environment.

1. Leverage educational experiences designed to translate into employment opportunities


Many business schools have programs specifically designed to create employment opportunities. The Career Center at ISM Group in Senegal partners with firms like the Cofina Group, a company in the financial services industry, to provide students with support. The ISM Group and the Cofina Group’s Young Professional Program trains select students onsite and then potentially reintegrates them to their country of origin as full-time employees. Martial Baron Mbenguélé, originally from the Congo, is one person who went through this experience

“I had the opportunity to be part of this program mainly through Amandine Bebi and Ndèye Arame Diop [from the ISM Career Center team] who have spared no effort to give me this opportunity,” Martial said. “The Career Center believed in me and involved me in an adventure that has been fruitful, fulfilling and most beneficial, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Hind Zizi of the ESCA Ecole de Management (Morocco) can also attest to the power of experiences that career centers can offer students. An international business major, Zizi developed a specific interest in Asian business and global brand management as the result of an exchange semester in Seoul, South Korea.  width=

“Once back home, I shared this newfound passion with the head of our career department who suggested I acquire additional experience and then helped me land an internship in a renowned communication consulting agency in Morocco,” explained Zizi. “I had the opportunity to lead the public relations for the account of a multinational Korean company.”

The important point is not that Zizi traveled for the exchange program but rather that she was proactive in translating her experience into a new job working for a Korean multinational company.

“My school helped me achieve my dream job by understanding my needs, providing opportunities based on this and preparing me in advance,” she said.

2. Instill Confidence in a Virtual Environment

Many of us have heard the phrase “never let a good crisis go to waste.” Winston Churchill first uttered these words as he was working to form the United Nations after World War II, according to this OECD article.

There are indeed different types of new opportunities on the career front as the result of the crisis. During a GBSN Cross-Border Webinar, Ronit Avni, co-founder of a mentoring and employment digital platform called Localized, noted that the increase in remote interviews is an opportunity for those not in hubs that traditionally hire in person. To seize this opportunity, business school career centers have been helping students develop virtual interviewing skills and offer networking opportunities and education in an online environment.

 width=Baruc Ingar, an industrial engineer with more than 14 years of professional experience, has benefitted from how Centrum PUCP Business School’s Alumni and Employability Office (Peru) adapted to offer virtual support in the midst of the pandemic. He leveraged the Office’s offerings and secured employment as a corporate project manager at Intercorp Retail, a retail holding company operating in Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Bolivia. He particularly credits the school’s career services department for giving him the confidence and helping him understand the recruiting process.



3. Customize communications

Maddie Handler, a 2020 MBA graduate from the Thunderbird School of Global Management, just joined the GBSN team in April as a Program Coordinator. She offers a unique perspective on finding career opportunities in the midst of a pandemic as a recent graduate who just secured a job and who also worked as an Employer Relations Project Leader at Thunderbird while she was pursuing her MBA.  width=

Handler saw first-hand how Thunderbird amped up its communications efforts in a dramatic way once the school stopped in-person activities due to the virus. This included the career center launching a series of new What’sApp chats for different groups to communicate and engage students around different opportunities. The What’sApp chats would include content like best practice videos and calls to action to communicate with a career counselor through various means, including private messaging. Activity on Facebook and Instagram also amped up considerably.

“I would definitely say that the Thunderbird Career Management Center was very effective in adapting in the midst of the coronavirus to provide value to students through these different communications channels,” she said.

As someone who did career coaching, both at Thunderbird and in a previous internship, Handler recommends that career centers step up their efforts on training students to use LinkedIn.

“An online presence is an important way to communicate one’s professional value and LinkedIn is the ideal channel to do this,” she said. “It is also a free way to connect to others and learn about new opportunities. Unfortunately, many students don’t use the channel the way they should.”

While certain sectors are down in today’s environment, it is not all gloom and doom. Hiring is still happening. Zizi advises career centers to go beyond generic communications and do the following:

  • Help students develop a short-term career plan that may involve job opportunities that were not initially on their radar.
  • Tell students about target industries that have flourished during the pandemic and are looking to enhance their staff.
  • Provide practical information about starting and financing a new business for students might be considering a more entrepreneurial path.

Ingar thinks that not all students are aware about the value career centers provide and especially how the services fit their needs. He encourages career centers to be more proactive in its communications to students.

4. Be a “Bridge for Opportunity”

 width=Jonah Bergstein, a full-time first year MBA student at the C.T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston, was able to secure a project management internship at the meal services company Peli Peli. He proactively attended the different career fairs and mixers organized by the C.T. Bauer College of Business’ Rockwell Career Center and worked with a career coach at the Center to sharpen his resume and networking skills. Even when offered virtually, these events and services provide vital connections to opportunities.

“I would not have gotten my summer internship if it were not for the work the career staff does,” he said. “Nobody knows what is going to happen with the economy. All that career staff can do is continue to learn as much as they can and help lead the students through these trying times.”

Part of making students aware about opportunities is provide with them with confidence, according to Handler. “We live in a society that is very hesitant; people aren’t always very bold to reach out to the CEO or the director,” she said. “I encourage all career development professionals to instill confidence in students so they feel inspired to be fearless in exploring opportunities. The worse someone can tell you is no.”

Zizi concludes: “There are no guidelines when facing uncertainty. The best schools can do is lend an attentive ear to students and to job markets and become a bridge for opportunity.”

For additional insights on how career services can support students in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, access the following two GBSN webinars:

  • Locking in Jobs in a Lock Down–Coronavirus and Careers for Business Graduates featuring Ronit Avni, Founder & CEO of Localized; Sean O. Ferguson, Associate Dean, Asia School of Business; and Julia Zupko, Director of Career Development, Schwarzman College of Tsinghua
  • Recruitment During a Downturn featuring Franziska Ewald, MBA and International Engagement Lead, Esade Careers, Esade Business & Law School; Amber Wigmore Álvarez, Chief Innovation Officer, Highered EFMD Shared Career Services; and David Serés, HR VP South East Asia & South Korea Boehringer Ingelheim



This article was written by Kevin Anselmo, a communications consultant for GBSN. He is the creator of Interview an Innovator, an online course experience that helps students explore their career interests, learn critical digital communications skills and establish a positive digital footprint.