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The Rebound: Cal Poly transitions to virtual career fairs and counseling

Alumni have lifetime access to CP Career Services
Posted at 10:37 AM, Apr 22, 2020

As part of KSBY's new initiative, The Rebound Central Coast, we're sharing stories and tools to help you find work and make ends meet during the COVID-19 crisis.

In a challenged job market, career counselors at Cal Poly are finding new ways to connect employers with students and alumni.

Executive Director of Cal Poly Career Services Eileen Buecher said 2020 was shaping up to be a great year for college graduates jumping into the job market.

"We were having our best year ever with job and internship postings up until March," Buecher said. "We're still getting job and internship postings but probably at half the rate that it was last year at this time."

Cal Poly senior Spencer Gran is set to graduate in June with a degree in agricultural business.

"Now looking for a job mainly in marketing," Gran said. "Ideally, up in the Bay Area but I'm kind of flexible with location, especially right now."

Gran has been job hunting for months. Now, he's trying to stay hopeful.

"Reshaping your expectations has been difficult but I'm still trying to have a positive outlook," he said.

Up to 93 percent of Cal Poly students graduate gainfully employed or enrolled in graduate school. That statistic may drop as a result of the pandemic's impact on the economy.

One employer that is looking to hire Cal Poly graduates is Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

"Our core business is maintaining the nuclear stockpile but we are involved in the COVID-19 research right now trying to solve the issues and develop respirators," said Beth McCormick, director of strategic workforce development for the lab.

McCormick says the defense contractor employs about 7,000 people and they need more employees.

"We have hundreds of job openings," she said.

Lawrence Livermore recruits Mustangs at Cal Poly's Career Fairs every year. The lab is one of at least 40 employers participating in Cal Poly's first virtual career fair.

McCormick says this Zoom-powered event is the new normal for hiring.

"We are not going to be able to meet students face-to-face in the traditional method," McCormick said. "I think that actually there will be many advantages to going to a web-based career fair."

Cal Poly's spring career fair typically draws 150-200 employers and about 4,000 students. Instead of canceling altogether, Buecher said they decided to postpone and figure a way to connect students and employers virtually.

"We're using Zoom, breakout rooms, a lot of staff and student volunteers to moderate the rooms to get them connected," Buecher said. "We are talking to a lot of people on how to pull this together."

Next week's virtual job fair is one of many new online resources, including Mustang Jobs, available to students and alumni through Cal Poly Career Services.

"We are doing career counseling online, we're doing presentations and workshops online, we've expanded our walk-in hours throughout the week," said Buecher.

If you are a Cal Poly graduate who has been laid off, Buecher reminds alumni they have free, lifetime access to Cal Poly Career Services.

At a time when many feel discouraged, there are resources to help you land on your feet.

Buecher and McCormick recommend checking with your alma mater to see what help they can offer in your job search.

Alumni networks can be helpful tools for finding employment opportunities. At Cal Poly, Buecher said Cal Poly Career Connections was launched last summer to allow students and alumni to network with each other.

While many industries are struggling, McCormick says California's engineering and technology sectors are thriving.

"If someone is unemployed, [I suggest] that they turn to the community college and find out of there is a program they can get into for some training right now," McCormick said. "They may want to look at retraining themselves to somehow find entry-level jobs into the tech market."

Job experts say optimism is key.

"It's very difficult at these times to feel good about yourself when you're not contributing," said McCormick. "As an employer, we realize that and we realize that expectations are going to be a little bit different."

McCormick said the hiring process is taking longer because everything is being done virtually. She added that new employees can expect to begin work with online trainings instead of in-person.

Students like Gran, nearing graduation, are witnessing a historic moment in the American economy firsthand.

"No one else has really graduated with COVID going on or with anything like this so in that respect, you have that kind of unique opportunity to learn something that no one else has," Gran said.

Cal Poly's virtual career fair is next Wednesday and Thursday, April 29 and 30. You can sign up right now and find other resources on the Cal Poly Career Services website.

Here is a list of the employers who will be participating in the online job fair:

  • Bay Area Air Quality Management District
  • Bay Area SMACNA
  • Bengal Engineering, Inc.
  • Center for Land-Based Learning
  • Center for Land-Based Learning
  • City Year
  • Consolidated Electrical Distributors, Inc.
  • DCS Corp
  • Family Care Network
  • FormFactor Inc.
  • Gonzales Unified School District
  • GreenTree Landscaping
  • Hazard Construction Company
  • Hensel Phelps
  • Jackson Family Wines
  • JTS Construction
  • Kiewit
  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • Mission Bank
  • Odoo, Inc
  • Officer Programs, Navy Recruiting District Los Angeles
  • Oriental Motor USA Corporation
  • Peace Corps
  • PlanMember Financial Corporation
  • Preston Pipelines Inc.
  • Quincy-Colombia Basin Irrigation District
  • REC Solar Commercial Corporation
  • Revature
  • Seneca Family of Agencies
  • Sensor Tower
  • Solano County Office of Education
  • Telecare Corporation
  • The Davey Tree Expert Company
  • Thrivent
  • Turlock Christian Schools
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • United States Marine Corps Officer Programs Santa Barbara
  • Vendition - Business
  • WellAware
  • Wine Warehouse