Students may feel a little insecure about their future careers due to the economic consequences of COVID-19. However, Texas Tech professionals reveal the future is still bright, and it is only a matter of how students get creative pushing through the darkness of trying times.

Director of the University Career Center, Jay Killough, said he encourages students to expand their horizons, to look for opportunities whether it is in their field of study or not. As a department of human sciences professor, he has had students who did just this.

He said he had a non-traditional student who got laid off from a 10-year banking job due to COVID-19, but after discussing his goals and interests, they realized that the student thrived on fitness and nutrition, so they explored job prospects in that area. By the end of the semester, the student wrote for his finals paper how he got a job at a wellness clinic.

“What are the things you do every day that you enjoy? Is it fashion? Is it food? Is it gaming?” Killough said.  “And how do you translate that into a career? How do you play that into maybe doing it as a job?”

Attaining a job, which itself is an experience, often requires experience, and can make it challenging for students without experience to find jobs. One way to overcome this challenge, Killough said, is to simply get experience through internships, shadowing, certifications or volunteerism.

“We have a resource in our website [UCC] called Parker Dewey, which helps students apply for micro-internships,” Killough said. “These are two weeklong experiences that expose students to a particular industry where they are asked to provide a project, some evidence of learning.”

The UCC website has a “COVID-Career Resource” that provides links to general websites students can sort through for virtual or remote internships and job opportunities, Killough said.

Students may worry about how they look to employers when they have near subpar grades but a lot of relevant practical experience, Killough said.

“I think it looks good. I think there are lots of employers out there who were in the same boat themselves,” he said. “They maybe had a C average, but a lot of work experience, side hustles and gigs to pay their way through college, which may have affected their grades.”

Killough said although this element depends on the employer, the strategy is to focus on employers who value experience over GPA.

Carol Trigg, assistant director of the Employers and Marketing at Tech, said students should also consider including their retail jobs on their resume for these jobs cultivate transferrable skills appropriate for any type of work.

“Every job is important. I don’t go along with the feeling, ‘Oh I was just a server so I won’t put that on my resume,’” she said. “That was your work. You learned teamwork, time management, conflict resolution, good communication and problem-solving.”

Diana Padilla, a junior psychology student from Dallas, said although she values her service job experiences and the skills she gained from it, her goal is to obtain an internship or volunteer experience, but COVID-19 has made it difficult for her to do so.

“I want to do that [volunteering] because it helps with my knowledge and looks definitely good on paper, but I don’t really have a lot of that right now,” she said. “I can’t go out and get it without putting myself at more risk.”

Padilla said she hopes to be more active next semester, but as of now, she is just trying to financially support herself. After she finishes her undergraduate degree in Dec. 2021, Padilla said her next move is to attend graduate school.

Although Padilla said she was not entirely confident with her future, given the uncertainty of COVID-19, she always strives to approach life as her parents had advised her.

“‘Ponte las pilas,’ it’s always been my parents’ mantra,” she said. “It kind of means like, ‘Put your batteries on. Give it all you got.’”

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