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Virtual Engineering Resume Café providing vital outlet for students, employers

By: 

Stephen Greenwell

Life has adapted in a variety of ways because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and that shift has also occurred for the Engineering Career Center at the Cullen College of Engineering, which has had great success shifting its programs to online platforms.

Dr. Yolanda Norman, the assistant director of the Engineering Career Center, has been working since the spring to fine-tune their offerings for a digital environment. The center's popular Engineering Resume Café series has transitioned to an online program, which she said was still well-attended over the summer and early fall.

“There was a lot of work I had to do this summer to create our virtual Engineering Resume Café in Microsoft Teams, and the majority of the work was learning how to use and maximize the platform,” she said. “I wanted to have the same dynamic feeling online that we did in person, so I really tried to play up the 'café' atmosphere of having a space that both students and employers could come and go as well as participate in all types of resume events. Because our in-person resume café was already a huge success each semester that I planned it, there was much anticipation about it being converted to virtual, so not much buy-in was needed.”

Norman stressed that for the virtual resume café, they tried to keep as much of the formatting the same as they could – meaning, one-on-one encounters and critiques between an employer and a student. Norman said she planned for a slow build-up and expansion during the summer, but the enthusiasm from students surprised her.

“I started off really small this summer with only a few employers during the week who gave me their appointments to post in eConnection,” she said. “Students would always sign up within one minute of the appointments being posted. Surprisingly, it went very smoothly.”

The effort peaked the first week of classes in September, before the Labor Day holiday.

“I decided to take our one-day in-person resume café event and turn it into a weekly long virtual event,” she said. “We went from only 40 students and employers in the café to more than 300 within the first week of classes! It was incredible to see the activity and buzz within the Microsoft Teams, and students were private messaging me their thanks throughout all last week.”

So far, Norman said they had only received positive feedback from the students that had participated. Employers have also liked the online format.

“The employers love the ease of access to connect with students without the hassle of traffic and parking, and with many of them attending within the comfort of their homes or offices,” she said. “We’ve had quite a few employers who started with us this summer and continue to come back every week to volunteer and review more resumes.”

While career services started with the one-on-one reviews, they now have events on group resume reviews, resume workshops and open hours with campus partner University Career Services. Norman said she and the rest of the staff are developing other events as well.

“Last week during Resume Café Week alone, we were able to support more than 300 students, host more than 20 events, many of them simultaneously, and assisted more students than ever before in preparing their resume for this Fall’s Engineering Career Fair,” she said. “I am so very pleased with how this new program has been able to build capacity and serve more of our engineering students utilizing technology, especially during this global pandemic. Stay tuned for more, because I’m not done yet!”

For more information on the Engineering Career Center and its future events, visit its website.

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