Career Coaching, Job Search, Networking

A Year Like No Other in Alumni Career Resources

By Laura Quaglio (Photo by Saulo Mohana)

When Rutgers launched its first-ever alumni-focused career development program in 2017, the plan was to make it accessible to every member of the 540,000-strong global community of Rutgers alumni. So, when the pandemic forced the university to shut down in Spring 2020, the Rutgers Alumni Career Services office was poised to pivot.

“No one was prepared for this, obviously, but because we had tried from the outset to make our resources accessible from everywhere, we already had the infrastructure in place to transition fully to virtual,” says Colin von Liebtag, who has been assistant director of Rutgers Alumni Career Services since its inception.

The most urgent and immediate change involved producing new materials that speak to the “new normal” of job-hunting. The biggest challenge? Shifting an upcoming career fair from in-person to digital.

Here’s a look back at how alumni helped alumni in 2020—and what’s in store for 2021.

Job-seeking guides for unprecedented times

Less than a month after students moved to online classes, Rutgers Alumni Career Services posted a résumé-building guide to help alumni overcome career setbacks—and prepare new graduates for entry into an unusual job market.

Soon after, von Liebtag launched the Job Seeker’s Guide During COVID-19, a self-guided collection of resources that explain how specific industries were impacted by the pandemic, which job categories were likely to fare best in the coming months, and what alumni need to know to get their foot in the (now virtual) door. A host of other articles followed, including “Four Tips for Interviewing, Landing a New Job During COVID-19” and “Ten Tips for Web Conferencing Etiquette.”

Next, Rutgers partnered with New Start Career Network to produce a series of webinars, including “What the Coronavirus Could Mean for Job Seekers,” and “Insights for Older Job Seekers in the Time of Coronavirus,” featuring Chris Farrell, author of Purpose and a Paycheck. The career services team also created a series of highly popular Working Lunch Webinars, including Job Quest, Recession Resistance: Part 1 and Part 2, and Be Your Brand.

The result: By year’s end, more than 6,500 alumni connected with Rutgers through digital career-related touchpoints like those mentioned above, and Alumni Career Resources overall had 21,787 page views. That represents a 300 percent increase over site traffic in 2019.

Resolutions for 2021: Rutgers Alumni Career Services will continue to add resources in these formats while also branching into new ones, such as short videos, Q&A columns, and FAQ articles.

“We’re also looking to increase programs and content centered around diversity, equity, and inclusion—and to ensure our resources reflect this commitment so we can better serve all alumni,” says von Liebtag.

More ways for Scarlet to help Scarlet

In August, the Alumni Career Services office launched a new initiative called Building Bridges of Opportunity as part of the Student-Alumni Career Connect platform. This new tool makes it easier for Rutgers alumni to post opportunities regarding jobs, internships, and micro-internships. It also adds a new option: short-term paid or unpaid “project-based opportunities,” like designing a logo or website, conducting data analysis or research, and writing reports or blog articles. This is a win-win option for managers facing budget cuts and for scarlet candidates who want to enhance their resume.

The result: An amazing 2,884 alumni made networking connections on Career Connect through this and other parts of the site, and 319 job opportunities were posted on Rutgers Handshake (a job board and career management tool) by alumni looking to employ other alumni.

Resolutions for 2021: In addition to getting the word out about opportunities like the Bridges Initiative, von Liebtag is looking to alumni as “subject matter experts” in 2021. He hopes to encourage more graduates to share their insights and advice in a variety of media. (Email Career Services to learn how you can get involved.)

For alumni who have yet to maximize their use of the free resources available to them, von Liebtag would like to extend the invitation to log in and see what’s offered. Any time you do, you’ll be interacting with a fellow Scarlet Knight, he adds.

“I’m an alumnus of Rutgers two times over,” says von Liebtag. “I got my undergraduate and graduate degrees from here. So, everything we do is an alumni-to-alumni experience!”

Top 5 Free Career Resources of 2020

Have you checked out these offerings from the Rutgers Alumni Career Services office? Your fellow Scarlet alumni did this year! In fact, these were their five favorite pages, ranked in order of usage.

1. Student-Alumni Career Connect: This networking platform makes it easy for Rutgers alumni to offer opportunities and mentorship to current students.

2. Working Lunch Webinar Series: Experts share helpful, usable tips on job searching, resume building, unemployment services, career coaching, and more—packaged in one-hour video sessions.

3. Grammarly Premium: Rutgers alumni get free access to this helpful grammar-and-spelling checker, which can help anyone polish their résumé, cover letter, personal statement, and other professional writing.

4. CareerShift: This digital platform helps with organizing job searches from multiple job boards, accessing contact info on companies of interest, creating personal marketing campaigns, and more.

5. HireNYC-Metro Virtual Career Fairs (July and December): Upcoming fairs, including one in early February, are posted regularly on the Get Involved: Events page.