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Pivoting on Cue: How Career Services Prepare Students for Success During a Pandemic

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Rising to challenge, CAILCD follows own advice

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

Aya Sobhy ’21 was on her dream career path. She listened to her academic advisor. She studied hard. She attended Dickinson career-exploration and networking events. She researched internships with help from Dickinson’s Center for Advising, Internships & Lifelong Career Development (CAILCD), beginning in her first year on campus. And with CAILCD's guidance, she served two internships and refined her goals.

Then 2020 happened. And in-person classes, advising appointments, internships and career and networking events were no longer available.

How do you seamlessly support students like Sobhy in the midst of a global pandemic? CAILCD staff followed the advice they’ve long dished out: They researched options. They inventoried skills and acquired new ones. They pivoted as needed. And they found new ways to connect students with critical career-exploration, job-search and networking opportunities.

Ramping up

The easy part: Moving advising appointments online, since students were already booking appointments virtually. Another quick fix: Launching a wintertime phone campaign—typically held only in summer—to accommodate students who’d deferred enrollment from August to January. Each received a personal call from an advisor who helped them pick classes for their first semester.

Electronic communications technologies like Zoom, which make virtual career and networking events possible, became more widely attractive in 2020, as more professionals learned how to use these technologies. That—in concert with Dickinson’s longstanding relationships with alumni, parents and other potential mentors and employers—created an enviable pool of alumni and recruiters who could participate in Dickinson 2020 events, including those who were interested in participating before but couldn’t spare the time to travel to campus.

Bonus: they could attend virtual events in pajama bottoms and socks.

As a result, in 2020 CAILCD offered more information sessions, with a greater variety of employers, than ever before—tripling the number of sessions in 2019, according to the center’s executive director, Damon Yarnell. Dickinson’s largest 2020 virtual job fair attracted 50 employers and 350 registered students and alumni. A virtual road trip provided a look inside 16 workplaces, including WarnerMusic, National Geographic, Uber and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The personal touch

But technology and extensive CAILCD connections aren’t the only heroes in this story. In 2020, alumni posted 150 more jobs and internships, and a record number of Dickinson students pursued internships last spring and fall semesters. CAILD’s new job-search clubs provided additional support, bringing small groups of senior-year students together online, along with staff members, to share tips, encouragement, plans and updates. Virtual roundtables put students in touch with 2008 and 2009 grads—young professionals with firsthand knowledge of how to launch a career in uncertain times.

These opportunities are indispensable to students like Sobhy, a double major in law & policy and political science. Following CAILCD recommendations, she upped her LinkedIn game. She met virtually with CAILCD staff for resume and cover letter review and interview prep. And she recently accepted a job at Millbank, in New York City.

“There is so much knowledge to gain from those around us if we just have faith in ourselves and put the extra effort in to ask the right questions,” she says of her CAILCD experiences. “It’s important to have an open mind and learn as much as we can.”

As Yarnell notes, the good work continues in 2021, along with a new Industry Immersion series—two weeklong, conference-style virtual events that will offer focused recruiter meetups, info sessions, internship info, mock interviews and networking opportunities this spring. “And that isn’t all,” he adds. “We’ll have more to announce next fall.” 

Interested in posting or hosting an internship/externship/shadowing opportunity, hiring a Dickinsonian, presenting a career webinar or talking with a student by phone who’s interested in a similar career? Connect with Dickinson through Alumnifire and LinkedIn or contact the CAILCD at


Published March 10, 2021