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Careers and Leadership

Career Planning and Job Searching During a Pandemic

Marcy Bullock of the Career Development Center offers advice and encouragement to graduates and soon-to-be graduates about the job searching process during COVID-19.

Loss of employment has become a real concern for many during the COVID-19 pandemic. For that reason, current students who plan to graduate this winter or spring might be feeling stress or anxiety about their job prospects once they earn their degree. However, there is still plenty of reason to be optimistic, according to Marcy Bullock, director of professional development for NC State’s Career Development Center.

“Many places are hiring, and right now there are over 300 companies coming to our virtual career fairs this fall,” Bullock said.

Bullock recently offered the following tips for those about to graduate:

Now is the Time to Connect with Your Career Counselor

Marcy Bullock
Marcy Bullock

With the ever-changing circumstances around COVID-19 and making the adjustment to remote education, it can be easy for students to get overwhelmed and put off tasks that don’t seem as urgent. However, career planning is something that shouldn’t wait.

The first step is to simply log in to the Career Development Center’s job site and information hub, ePack, and schedule a meeting with your career counselor. In these appointments, students’ career counselors can help them create an attention-grabbing resume and LinkedIn profile, prepare for interviews, and many other services.

“All of our meetings are virtual this semester, but they are just as meaningful,” Bullock said. “Once you set it up, that will put you on a trajectory for your timeline of what you need to do between now and graduation to increase your chances of being employed in a job that relates to your career goals and your major.”

Attend Virtual Career Fairs

Bullock advises that it’s not too early for winter 2020 graduates — or even May 2021 graduates — to begin their job search. One of the best ways to do that is to develop the Career Fair Plus app and attend the Career Development Center’s virtual career fairs this fall. The first career fair is today, September 1.  

Bullock stressed that career fairs are not only a great way to find out about job opportunities. They also allow students to network and start making connections with employers in their field.

“You’re going to want to build a foundation in the fall semester so that when the spring semester starts, you already have networked, made connections, and you’ve laid the groundwork for having your resume ready. That way, when it’s time to start filling out applications, you’re ready to go.

“Some people are surprised at how early this process happens, but some of it relates to your major,” Bullock continued. “For example, if you’re in a STEM major and you meet an employer at one of our virtual career fairs in September, you could get a job offer in October and commit by November for next May.”

Listen to Pack Career Chats and Start Networking

Despite the national economic struggles due to COVID-19, Bullock has been able to offer some encouragement to students beginning their job search through her podcast, “Pack Career Chats.” In episode 56, she interviewed Lindsey Pollack, a millennial and multigenerational workplace expert and keynote speaker, who gave specific advice about navigating the job search during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One of the big tips is to use your LinkedIn profile to make connections with NC State alumni,” Bullock said. “There are over 200,000 NC State alumni on LinkedIn that you can search based on the function of the job or the industry you want to go into, and you can set up conversations with them.

“But, you don’t want to just email them out of the blue and say ‘Do you have time to help me find a job?’” Bullock continued. “You want to find something in common with that person. So, for example, if you’re both into yoga, had the same major at NC State, or were in the same Greek life organization, that is something that you can highlight and use to get the conversation started. It’s all about connecting and building relationships with people. That way, when you get close to graduation, you’re not just another resume in cyberspace.”

Do Your Research

According to Bullock, the staff at D.H. Hill Library and their knowledge of local employers is one of the best kept secret on campus.

“If you have an interview with Biogen and you want to stand out, don’t just Google Biogen and think you’ve done enough research,” Bullock said. “Chat with one of the librarians and they’ll tell you about all of the resources and tools you can use to find out everything you need to know about the company. It’s going to make you stand out so much more if you know what the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats are for an organization, and they’re going to see that you’re resourceful, you take initiative, and you really understand what you’re applying for.”

Already Graduated? You Can Still Get Help

In addition to the many services it provides current students, the Career Development Center can also help recent alumni in their job search for free up to a year after they graduate. Those who join the NC State Alumni Association can also consult alumni career services.

“Otherwise, you should be doing all the same things our undergrads are doing,” Bullock said. “Use LinkedIn and ePack, and get feedback about your resume from us.”

Perhaps the most important step, though, is narrowing your search and knowing where you want to go.

“Some people say ‘I want to keep my options open,’ but that actually diffuses your job search,” Bullock said. “You need to focus on where, geographically, you want to be and what industry or field you want to work in, and that helps you identify potential employers.”

Learn more about the Career Development Center and the services it provides at