Online by Design: Season 1.5

Episode 5: Career Support for Online Students

UNC Greensboro’s Justin Golding discusses the variety of resources available to online students through the Career and Professional Development office, from pinpointing strengths to prepping for interviews.
Photo of Justin Golding

Guest Speaker: Justin Golding

“When we’re meeting with a student, whether that's virtual through Zoom, Google Hangouts, (or) the telephone, we are always working with students to help them pinpoint their strengths, talk about how they’re able to articulate their stories to a prospective employer, and talk about all the wonderful things that they can bring to a table.”

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Susie Boles: Welcome to Online By Design. I'm Susie Boles. 

Sid Fletcher: And I'm Sid Fletcher. 

Boles: Sid, here is the big question people always ask. What are you going to do after you graduate? Are you going to earn a promotion and your current role, change jobs, or find a new one? At UNC Greensboro, the Career and Professional Development Office is a team of people dedicated to helping you figure that out. 

Fletcher: We're also going to explore, how can UNC Greensboro help online students with their careers? To find out, Susie and I reached out to Justin Golding, assistant director and career coach. Good to have you on this show, Justin. 

Justin Golding: Good to be here. 

Fletcher: Before we dive right in, I'd like our audience to know a little bit more just about who is Justin Golding. Well, Justin Golding is part of the career and professional development team here at UNC Greensboro and he works with humanities and STEM students. Justin is an alumnus of the Counseling and Education Development Master’s Program here at UNC Greensboro and previously attended Appalachian State University. Justin loves facilitating mock interviews and helping students articulate their strengths. 

Boles: All right, Justin, I would love to know how your team at the Career and Professional Development Services Office supports online students while they're enrolled at UNC Greensboro. 

Golding: Thank y'all both so much for having me on today. So at Career and Professional Development the ways that we help students, and especially online students, is that we work directly, one-on-one with students, whether it's mock interviews, so helping students prepare for upcoming job interviews, looking over resumes, cover letters, also doing various assessments like the Strong Interest Inventory or the Myers-Briggs. So if a student's coming to us and they have no idea what they'd like to do in the future related to their future careers, we're here to help. We can help them pinpoint their strengths and how they can utilize that in a career. 

Fletcher: To touch more on that, how approachable and supportive are the Career and Professional Development Services staff when it comes to working with online students? 

Golding: So we're very approachable, we're very friendly, very positive. A lot of times when students are calling our office, or they may be scheduling through email, or visiting Handshake, they will be directed to one of our wonderful career coaches. And when we're meeting with a student, whether that's virtual through Zoom, Google Hangouts, whether that's through the telephone, we are always working with students to help them pinpoint their strengths, talk about how they're able to articulate their stories to a prospective employer, and talk about all the wonderful things that they can bring to a table. A lot of times when students are interviewing with a prospective employer, the most difficult question right from the start can be "tell a little bit about yourself." So a lot of times when we're working with a student, we talk with them about how to articulate their education, how to talk about their ability to take initiative, and also how to be successful with their project management. These are all things that, no matter what type of industry that a student is going into, an employer wants to hear about. 

Boles: Justin, that's great to hear that you have these personalized conversations with students to really empower them to tell their own stories and figure out where their skills are going to really meet needs in the workplace. I'm curious, when is the best time for online students to reach out to your office? 

Golding: I would recommend as soon as possible. When a student is here during their first semester, we are more than happy to work with them, as I mentioned before, with any type of assessments, if they're trying to pinpoint what is a good career path for themselves, whether that's thinking about their strengths, thinking about their leadership style, even thinking about their team orientation, working with other individuals. Because these are all things that employers are going to ask about for potential internships and potential full-time workplace experiences. And it's never too early to update, change your resume. So we can help you with your resume. 

Golding: One of the big things that students will ask about is length of resume. And I always say that it depends on where they are in their academic career. A lot of times we recommend one page because if the student's graduating with their bachelors, they may be competing against people-- a higher volume of candidates because they may be applying for an entry-level position. But if they have their masters or even, potentially, PhD, a pool of candidates might be smaller, they might have that more in-depth work experience. But even simple questions like page length, we are ready to talk about right when they are starting their academic career here at the university. Anybody that's listening to this that is going to be starting their first semester here at the university, we are here to help you virtually, whether that's through the telephone, or a Zoom in-- Zoom appointment, Google Hangout appointment, we are here to help. 

Fletcher: Justin, thank you once again for describing just how much care and attention are shown to students from the very first day that they enter onto UNC Greensboro campus. And so kind of on the opposite end of that, look at from the very first day going into the very last day, how is it that you help online students translate what they've learned and their degree for employment into their desired field? 

Golding: A lot of times when working with students, whether it's interviewing, whether it's preparing a cover letter, preparing their resume, a lot of times I'll talk about the three C's. So in my past work with the College of Arts and Sciences, we did a program called the Liberal Arts Advantage. And even though that was geared more towards the humanities, this is good advice for any degree or any student. But when you are preparing for employment, you're thinking about how you communicate with people, how you collaborate with people, and your critical thinking skills. No matter what industry you're applying to, employers are going to want to know about that. And that's great information that you can showcase in the classroom when you're taking online courses or even in projects. 

Golding: When you are communicating with your-- both your professor and your fellow students, you're articulating information, whether that's writing a 10-page paper or whether that's participating in a Zoom call. You are going to be practicing for your full-time career. You're going to be practicing communicating with other professionals how you're able to articulate an idea or even engage in healthy, robust debate with someone who may have a different point of view. So the way that you communicate, the way you articulate information, that's going to be something that's important to any employer right from the start when you're submitting your resume, cover letter, and your interviewing skills, also collaborating. So a lot of students, when we're talking with them, they may have a little bit of trepidation about group work. But they're always going to be engaging with other people, whether they're engaging with people through Zoom calls, whether they're engaging face-to-face, hopefully, in a more healthy, post-COVID world, but they're always going to be engaging with people, collaborating, thinking about what role they play on a team. And when they're doing a group project, when they're figuring out how to schedule so that they can either meet during the evening or meet during the afternoon when good time that's for everyone-- so people are always going to be collaborating with people, whether they're meeting in person, or whether you're working on a paper, you're emailing, you're sharing Google Docs, you're figuring out how to work towards a common goal. 

Golding: And then the critical thinking. So when you are as I mentioned taking that initiative, making decisions, critical thinking goes along with project management. But critical thinking is something employers are going to even ask you about that. "Tell us about a time that you were working towards something and an unexpected obstacle presented itself?" "Tell us about the time that you had a disagreement with somebody?" All of those are things that could potentially happen in the classroom. So while students are here taking online courses, they're actively engaged with their fellow students and their professors. And that academic work, whether it's a term paper, whether it's a project, something like X-Cultural project in the Bryan School, or whether it's even an internship, or whether it's a clinical practicum hours, they are engaged in all-- in the three C's when studying here at the university. 

Fletcher: Justin the three C's that's incredible as-- I don't believe that I was personally taught that during my undergraduate career, as I personally find myself using those of my professional career. So just working with students and letting them know that those skills are transferable is incredibly crucial and important. And I'm glad to hear that that conversation is being had by the team within your services within Career and Professional Development Services. And with that being said and understanding discussing transferable skills, are there particular resources where you direct students to go for finding remote work opportunities, or internships, or even work from home positions? 

Golding: One of the resources that we have on campus that I think is a hidden gem that every time I mention it to students, many students don't even know that they have access to it, is CareerShift. Now, normally CareerShift is a website that people around the country have to pay for, but because the university already pays for it in bulk, our students, as long as they have their UNCG email, they can utilize it for free. So up till six months after graduation, they can utilize CareerShift for free. And CareerShift, it's outside the university. One of the things that I love is that they will always show what's new on the website when you log into the website. So some of the things that they've really expanded on is that they pooled a lot of great information from LinkedIn when it comes to connecting with individuals, with a prospective company, prospective industry, finding people to potentially network with, and also be that the feature of finding remote or finding working from home employment. And that's something they added in May just because-- they did an entire webinar based around it and they said so many people are currently working-- looking for work where they're able to do it remotely. So all you have to do is go log into the system using your UNCG email, click on Looking for Remote Opportunities, and that will allow you the opportunity, whether you're looking for an internship, part-time work, or full-time work, where you can expand the playing field and really take a look at some of the great opportunities that are available to everyone that has access to that website. 

Golding: And then also Handshake, it's our in-house database system, and there's several different filters that students can utilize when looking for employment, whether they're looking for North Carolina-specific employment itself, where they're looking for Greensboro, Raleigh, Charlotte, or any of the other cities, towns in North Carolina. Or if we might have a student that's currently living in another state or if they are looking for national companies, they can utilize the filters on Handshake to look at the different opportunities that are available to them. 

Boles: Well, CareerShift and Handshake sound like phenomenal tools to help students find various job opportunities in-state or wherever they may be living. That's really wonderful. I'm curious, too, for some of our listeners who may be considering going back to school or taking online courses, what advice do you have for somebody considering online courses for the first time? 

Golding: I think one of the things that you really have to think about is being diligent. So when you are taking an online course, you, obviously, have to think about your time management. You have to think about-- if it's an online course, it may be accelerated. So you have to think about the time and effort that it will take, whether it's completing homework, whether you're engaging with your fellow students through class presentations. But you really have to be diligent. You have to be passionate and genuine when you're engaging in anything in life. So I would say diligent, passionate, genuine. Those would be the three things that I would really think about. And I know from my own experience getting my master’s, one of the courses I took online during the summertime, it was a completely different mindset than going into the class. So I had to really make use of my Google Calendar. I had to make sure that all my deadlines-- I knew when they were coming up. I had to give myself ample prep time. So those are just some of the things to think about. 

Golding: And the nice thing about taking courses online, especially in a post-COVID world, is when you're talking-- when you're writing your cover letter, you can really talk about some of these great qualities that you were able to utilize when excelling in the classroom or excelling in the online classroom. You're really able to talk about your diligence to a potential employer. If you're working at a company where-- hopefully we never have another time period like this, but if the employer is saying to themselves, like, OK, we've gone through this and we're going to offer more virtual opportunities, you're going to be a prime candidate because you're going to say I have been able to-- I was someone who was able to take these online courses. I'm someone who, whether you have expertise in Zoom or whether you are someone who knows some of the great options, you're going to make yourself an indispensable candidate for that company. 

Boles: All right, now let's take a quick commercial break. 

Commercial: Looking to earn your bachelors? Try us on for size. Expand your career with UNCG Online's innovative programs in business, liberal studies, education, and more. Find the right fit with UNCG Online. 

Fletcher: All right. And now that we're back from our commercial break-- Justin, I'm just curious, how would you describe the value of the skills that students learn from UNC Greensboro? 

Golding: Some of the skills that students are actively learning from the university correlate nicely with the NACE Competencies. And I know that there's probably several people listening to us that have no idea what NACE is or what the competencies are. So NACE stands for National Association for Colleges and Employers. And what they do is-- basically they're a working network of different employers and career development centers, career and professional development, career services-- however that university decides to frame the great career work that they're doing. But basically every year employers basically say what they're actively looking for in potential candidates. And when we were working for the Liberal Arts Advantage, we even took the three C's from three of the competencies that employers are looking for. The very first three are critical thinking, oral and written communication, teamwork and collaboration. But in addition to those, there's also digital technology, professionalism and work ethic, career management, global and intercultural fluency, and leadership. And every single one of these eight competencies are values and skills that students are going to be engaging with at UNC Greensboro. 

Golding: I know I've done a lot of work with the international global studies majors, so I know that there's several students who are going to be able to talk about whether it's-- it could be something as simple as study abroad, or it could be a secondary language, or even being able to know how to speak multiple languages, but that's a great way that they could talk about that specifically to a prospective employer. So here at UNC Greensboro, we're always talking about these eight competencies because several employers have stated right off the bat, these are things that we're looking for in candidates and these are competencies that students are utilizing every day in their classroom, utilizing in their online courses, and, depending on where they are, actively going to be using in their internships. So those are just some of the things that we talk about with students here at the university. 

Boles: How can online students access your services?

Golding: One service that I haven't talked about yet is vmock.uncg.edu. So as long as a student has an active UNCG account, they can go on VMock and they can actually get feedback on their resume within 30 seconds. So if they are in the process of gaining an appointment with a career coach, right from the get-go they can already receive feedback on their resume. And each student, every year, has 10 uploads to VMock. So we want to make sure that students aren't just changing one word and then uploading to VMock, we, ultimately, want students to have that confidence in themselves. I know how to format, create a resume from scratch. I-- because a resume is going to be a lifelong document. And it's going to be something that, whether you go into further education, whether you're moving to a new position or career, you're always going to be changing and updating your resume. But that's one of our great online services for students. 

Golding: Also, the majority of our resources are on handshake.uncg.edu. In addition to the virtual events that we have here at the university, there's also different virtual events where employers, such as Bank of America, Target, or even the FBI-- that they have hosted virtual Q&As on Handshake. So even though an employer might not be able to come to our career fair, whether it's in the Kaplan Wellness Center or whether it's online, there's several great virtual events on Handshake that are available to students that they can register for. Basically, every day we have peer career ambassadors who are meeting with students offering in the moment feedback on the resume, cover letters, or how to get started on Handshake. So if you're a current student and you want to visit with a peer career ambassador through Zoom, they are getting you started, whether it's getting you started-- what you need for a resume, how to access the website, the beginner, basic-- beginner level engagement with our office. But those are some of the resources that we provide. 

Golding: We also have our website, cpd.uncg.edu. With that you can go on our platform InterviewStream. If you want to practice interviewing, we have over 6,000 virtual questions through InterviewStream. So that can be a great way for you to practice and see what type of questions, based on the industry that you want to go into, might be asked of you during an interview. But basically, right now we're living in a time period where several employers have had to make in-the-moment decisions. Several universities have had to make in-the-moment decisions. Whether you're here on campus, whether you're meeting with us online, we are here to help to provide the best feedback that we can present to students. We're here to help students as they navigate looking at different internships, looking at different full-time employment opportunities, and even graduate school. If you're thinking about graduate school, we'll also help you with interviewing or personal statements. So we're very proud of the virtual resources that we have for students. 

Boles: So how does UNC Greensboro's online career services set us apart from other institutions? 

Golding: So I think that what sets us apart from other institutions is the great students that we work with first and foremost. So we work with students who are coming directly from high school. We work with students who may be nontraditional students who are coming back for their second degree or who are coming back after a delay in their education. And we also work with a robust international population. So we really think about this variety of students that we are working with when we are planning our programming for the semester, when we are thinking about our events and making sure that they're accessible to everyone, that they are robust and inclusive of everyone that we're working with. So we really think about these considerations. 

Golding: I also believe that we are set apart by the great community partnerships that our staff has built. I know my supervisor, Dr. Megan Walters, she has an amazing job cultivating a relationship with campus Greensboro. Megan is often in touch with Lizzy, who's the director of Campus Greensboro. And Dr. Walters is also actively thinking about different ways that we can advertise this group to our students, how we can make it accessible to our students, and how we can really prepare them for that-- this great community endeavor. And also I know our main director, Nicole Hall, she is someone who is known in the industry. She is someone who sits on panels. Dr. Megan Walters is also someone who serves on SoACE, different planning committees. So I think that's what sets us apart is that people know that the staff that works here at UNC Greensboro that they know that they're passionate and genuine when working with students and that we're thinking about all students. We're thinking about all the students that we meet with every day, whether that's through virtual means, whether that's meeting them face to face. So we really do want to make sure that we are here for everyone. 

Boles: Thank you so much, Justin, for joining us today to tell us about the vast array of personalized services that you offer to each and every online student at UNC Greensboro. Thank you again for joining us. 

Golding: Thank y'all so much for having me. It was a pleasure. 

Fletcher: Appreciate you being here with us today, Justin. 

Boles: For more information about UNC Greensboro's career and professional development services, visit them at cpd.uncg.edu. Or to learn more about UNCG Online's online courses, visit our website at online.uncg.edu. 

Fletcher: See you all next time for another episode of Online By Design. I'm Sid Fletcher. 

Boles: And I'm Susie Boles. 

Fletcher: Online By Design is a production of UNCG Online.

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