The CAPS office is providing students with opportunities to prepare for an unstable job market. Collegian file photo.
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When the full shock of the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States last March, no one was immune from the effects a nationwide shutdown would cause. According to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the country’s unemployment rate spiked to 14.8% in April of 2020.
The last time the country’s unemployment rate was that high was during the Great Depression.
For students like Meghan Singer, a senior critical communications and media studies and Spanish double major, the job market is still very unstable. Trying to find a job is anxiety-inducing for her, since Singer is set to graduate in May.
“I am stressed out,” Singer said. “I’m trying to take it day by day because everyone’s stressed out and no one really knows what’s going to happen.”
Although millions of Americans have gotten back to work since last year’s shutdowns, January’s unemployment rate still sits at 6.3%, last matched in 2014. Singer and other Butler students remain aware of these issues, and continue to adapt to problems within the professional job market that have resulted from COVID-19.
In an ordinary year, Singer said she would have most likely started applying to graduate schools during this semester. But with the all-encompassing nature of the pandemic, she said she would rather acquire work experience before beginning a new program.
Singer stressed her desire to pursue a master’s degree in social work after graduating. She wants to work with the Latinx community to help influence and advise on immigration policy. The best way to acquire that extra level of experience, Singer suggested, would come through shadowing and traditional in-person experiences.
“I want to be able to participate in a program that I can go to in person instead of doing it all virtually,” Singer said. “A lot of things involve being in person, observing, being in person, learning, volunteering, all this stuff.”
Those in Butler’s Career and Professional Success office — better known as CAPS — understand reservations of students like Singer may have. Career advisors and other leadership at CAPS are taking steps to offset losses in experience and the virtual nature of some internships students are currently facing.
Gary Beaulieu, senior director of CAPS, said the office has done everything in its power to remain responsive and flexible to the job market, as well as the needs of job-seeking students.
“We immediately went with a series of workshops over the summer that were designed to really help students kind of figure out what’s next,” Beaulieu said of the time following COVID-19’s appearance in the United States. “We either had alumni there or we had employers there to kind of help students to talk through what to do next, how to operate.”
CAPS is continuing to adjust to the nature of online events. Their office hosted six virtual events last semester, including Butler’s annual Get Hired fair and a Big East Graduate School fair. Those at CAPS indicated they plan on holding more virtual events like these later this semester.
Jeremy Walthall, associate director of employer success at CAPS, also speaks with employers on a frequent basis to better understand what they are looking for among applicants. Walthall said that students don’t need to go on that path alone.
“[Employers] are doing helpful workshops for students on interviewing skills or resume tips,” Walthall said. “Students really need and want help, and that’s just a great way for them to build professional relationships.”
Beaulieu also highlighted CAPS’ work with students to acquire skills that will serve them in an online work environment. Being able to leverage the impression from an online interview is just as important as articulating a fit for a position, he said.
“Don’t wait. Start early,” Beaulieu added. “We like to really work with those students who don’t have any idea because then we can kind of help them, help them figure out what direction they want to go in.”
Beaulieu suggested new graduates should monitor prospects in the gig economy — usually freelance project work with employers — as a way to initially break into the job market. Keeping an open mind and a “plan B” option is never a bad attitude, in his view.
Current Butler students can also look for job listings through their Handshake account with the university or set up an appointment to meet with a career counselor through the app. CAPS employs six different career advisors organized by college. They consult on any part of the professional experience an individual may need, at any point in the process.
Reflecting on her own experiences with CAPS, Singer said her time there has encouraged her. She expects to continue utilizing their office as a resource, specifically as she draws closer to graduation. Not only was everyone there genuinely nice, she said, but it was relieving to know they were people that wanted to see her succeed in her professional journey.
“I would just say to make an appointment,” Singer said. “I didn’t use them the first two years of college, but I feel like the earlier you start going there, the more comfortable you’ll feel.”
All services offered by CAPS are free for both Butler students and alumni.