Job Searching in the Pandemic: Q&A with Patrick Nelson of Career Services

Among the names COM students know best, Patrick Nelson is definitely one we are most familiar with. A COM alumnus himself, Nelson is familiar with the industry and has built extensive networks throughout Greater Boston. As the director of career services, he works diligently in connecting COM students with incredible internships and job opportunities through monthly newsletters and frequent updates on career information. Nelson provides advice and sheds some light on the current career landscape with the complications of a global pandemic. 

Christina Yang: Throughout the years you worked at COM, is the current situation in the job market the worse that you’ve seen?

Patrick Nelson: I’ve been working in COM for about five years, and I would say it’s not the worst, just the most challenging. There were a lot of uncertainties when COVID first hit in March. Most students were dealing with internship programs that were cancelled for the rest of the semester and that was understandable. And in the summer companies cancelled programs as well. A lot of companies are still on hold for internships and jobs. But I think the attitudes change a little bit. The companies are seeing how well they’ve been working in these remote settings, and how they are able to get most of what they do online and manage that at a high level. So they’ve been less hesitant this fall to bring on new employees and interns remotely through the virtual format, which is encouraging. We’re seeing a lot of opportunities opening back up. The jobs and internships are coming back.

C: Over this semester, have students been reaching out more or less actively to Career Services?

Patrick: We are getting just as many appointments with career services, if not more. We’ve probably seen several hundreds of students already this semester, which is encouraging. Students want to stay on top of things and they still want to be engaged with their career development. They know that they need to put in extra effort right now to better understand the changing landscape and the best ways to position themselves within the companies and industries they want to pursue. So, we’re busier than ever and we keep working to find innovative ways to better position each students’ unique career aspirations.

C: What’s the biggest difference in preparing students now for their career now, in terms of the pandemic?

Patrick: We are preaching being extra patient and extra flexible. I wouldn’t say any strategies have changed, but we place a much bigger emphasis on networking and making connections at companies to help students leverage their candidacy. We always tell students, when you apply to a job or internship, you then need to follow up and make connections with alumni at each company. It has always been important but even more so now, because these folks can tell you what’s going on internally with their hiring process, which might be changing due to the coronavirus. For example, they may let you know that while an internship is not happening this fall, they are really hopeful that it will be happening in the spring. Or, they are working on signing a new client and might have two to three more full-time positions open up in March. That is very valuable information that you can use in career planning.

C: What resource do you think the student should better utilize from the office?

Patrick: We have a ton of resources that the students can always use. I think the best starting place would be the career services page on the COM website. Under “online resources and guides,” we have a very thorough and in-depth career guide for every element of your career development. Whether it be helping with a resume or cover letter, developing a Linkedin profile, networking, getting an internship, or even negotiating salaries.

Secondly, when you’re ready, come on in and use Handshake to make an appointment with career services. But beyond that, Linkedin can be a huge tool. Students don’t usually understand how much power and resources Linkedin has in their professional opportunities. It’s easy to feel like it’s just a Facebook page for the professionals. But it’s really where you make connections with the alumni and the people of your field that work in the companies that you pursue. Those valuable conversations can be elements that could get you over-the-top when you’re interviewing for a job.

And then lastly, BU Connect is a new resource, and it is a great one. BU Connect is our new student alumni platform, where alumni and students can make meaningful and impactful connections to network and help them with career developments. 

C: What then should students be more focused on when they build their Linkedin profile?

Patrick: When you’re building your profile, it does look like an online resume and that’s fine. But there are other things that you can work on too. You can specify interests and skills that are compelling. It’s also a great place to put a short biography on the top, which is not usually acceptable on a resume.  That really allows you to get beyond that single page that your resume confines you to. And you should not just be connecting with fellow students and professors, or people that you’ve previously worked with. You should start networking with people in your field by making introductions and building that network. So, when you are pursuing jobs, you have a very strong foundation under you already. 

C: Any last advice you have for students in current situations trying to get an internship or a job?

Patrick: I would say the best thing for students to do now is keep their heads up. Be patient and keep working on it. There are always things that you can be doing to improve your candidacy and your professional development. At this time there are not a ton of jobs or internships happening, but as I said earlier, they are definitely coming back. Use this down time wisely. Take the advantage of the time to work on your resume, your cover letter, your LinkedIn Profile, and your BU Connect. That way, when the dream job or internship comes about, you will be ready for it. 

Chung-Ning (Christina), Yang, Staff Writer

Christina is a senior majoring in Communication Studies and Film & TV. She was born in Taiwan and grew up in between China and Taiwan. Trying to take more initiation in writing, she joined the COMmunicator for the 2020-2021 academic year. Outside of school, she can be found watching a film with a cup of tea, dancing with her dance team, and trying out different food at home or restaurants. 

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