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Students in professional development classes at the Harbert College have the opportunity
to study dining etiquette and
“Auburn is definitely open for business. We’re helping our students to be the most marketable students in the South, if not the country." -- Jan Moppert, Office of Professional and Career Development Director”
The Harbert College is dedicated to providing a superior student experience that produces highly sought-after graduates. The Office of Professional and Career Development is an important tool in achieving this directive.
COVID-19 didn’t take away student services within Harbert College’s Office of Professional and Career Development. It just changed the way services – résumé consultations, career coaching, industry connections – are delivered.
“We’re actually working harder than we were before,” said Jan Moppert, Director of the Office of Professional and Career Development, who noted the unit within the college has met with roughly 115 students remotely in the first two weeks since institutional policies -- in the spirit of social distancing and health -- changed social practice.
Through Zoom, telephone, FaceTime, email, texts, and other technology, the OPCD team manages to meet with and coach students and continue valuable connections with industry recruiters.
“I’ve done so many mock interviews in the past week, I can’t begin to tell you,” Moppert continued. “Classes and video interviews are running at full steam. Our sophomore professional development classes have 1,200 students. We are also teaching freshmen and senior-level classes. We have career coaching appointments for résumé consultations, LinkedIn lessons, cover letter instruction, and mock interviews. Additionally, we are still providing career assessment appointments for students wanting to change their major. We’re using a platform called Big Interview, which is a virtual interviewing platform. We’re leveraging email consultations for quick résumé edits, talking to students about job searches and internship strategies – everything in a student’s career path.”
Kevin Batts, a career coach within the OPCD, meets with a student
“This is a challenging environment amidst the coronavirus pandemic, but we remain dedicated to helping students overcome these unique hurdles,” said Kevin Batts, part of the OPCD career coaching team. “We have modified our courses to ensure students continue building the professional skills needed to develop their careers and we combine this with one-on-one virtual meetings where we can discuss specific challenges students are facing.”
How have the professional development programs, BUSI 1010, BUSI 2010, and BUSI 4010 overcome the multitude of changes? One week, students were live in the classroom with instructors. The next … they’re on a laptop with them.
“We’ve had to re-envision a lot of our assignments because we’re activity and event-based courses,” Moppert said. “For instance, the dining etiquette dinner we do every year – and we had more than 600 students signed up for it at the Auburn Hotel and Conference Center – we had to cancel. So, what do we do? We’re doing a virtual dining experience online and they’re going through a PowerPoint presentation and writing a reflection on what they have learned.
“My team is very busy converting assignments, converting the class, and then working with students one-on-one, while making sure the students are OK, too. A lot of the students have anxiety on both how to get through the transition of class online and what’s going to happen to their internships and job-searching prospects.”
Mike Stover, Assistant Director for Employer Relations at the Harbert College, said during this time where students and recruiters are working remotely, both groups are figuring out the best methods for searching for jobs or candidates. Harbert College has a strong track record of connecting students to internships and careers.
The Office of Professional Development has a long track record
“The most immediate change for the employer relations team was reaching out to our employer partners to make sure they knew that we were still open for business, still in contact with our students, and still available to help them be successful in whatever way we could,” Stover said. “As they adjusted to their new circumstances, many had to quickly change plans for campus visits and events and reschedule or adjust interview plans. Our students are very adaptable and have adjusted to virtual interviews and other communication changes quickly.”
Stover added that virtual interviews and career fairs are becoming more popular. “Many interviews are now conducted using video-based platforms, where that was only a small portion prior to recent events,” he said. “If there is a silver lining to this, it will better prepare students for working in a flexible, evolving environment that might become the new normal for many companies after the current crisis is over. Also, it will help recruiters and students think creatively in how they research and source opportunities and candidates.”
Auburn’s ability, and the ability of its business students, to adapt to these changes have laid an impression on dozens of industry partners, Stover shared.
“Our employers have been very appreciative of our proactive outreach and ability to support them in this critical hiring time that coincides with an unprecedented global crisis,” said Stover. “We have been in consistent communication with companies that are still actively recruiting to make sure their opportunities are pushed out through various channels to reach as many students as a possible.”
“We have been in consistent communication with companies that are still actively recruiting to make sure their opportunities are pushed out through various channels to reach as many students as a possible." -- Mike Stover, Assistant Director for Employer Relations at Harbert College”
Moppert also sees this as a learning experience for the students.
“I tell them all the time, as a career director, I’ve worked through 9/11, I’ve worked through Hurricane Katrina, and I worked through the stock market crash of 2008,” she said. “I’ve seen where, overnight, life can change and how you market yourself also needs to change. I tell students, ‘Pay attention to this because down the road your life can change.’ And guess what? Life changed. Now they’re like, ‘Oh my God, you were right! Teach me because I need to know this stuff in order to survive.’ Their understanding of the value of what we are teaching them and understanding that this is not just something we’re putting them through for busywork, has risen.”
Moppert has a message for students, parents, alumni, and industry partners: “Auburn is definitely open for business.”
“We’re helping our students to be the most marketable students in the South, if not the country,” she added. “We’re helping them learn how to tell their stories in ways that are engaging and valued by employers. We’re keeping in touch with employers and making sure we know where they are with the hiring processes so that we can help students strategize around this interruption in our economy.”
Need to contact the OPCD? Team members are eager to help! Students are encouraged to use Handshake via student login or contact your career coach directly through email.