Kellstadt Virtual Forum: Understanding the HR Job Market During a Pandemic

By Jennifer Johnson

What a world we are living in right now. Luckily, I am able to go to school online and continue with my MBA degree, at the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business. I have found that adjusting to online classes has been a lot easier than I thought it would be. On the other hand, something I was nervous about was not being able to attend career events that the Kellstadt Career Management Center would host on a regular basis.

Thankfully, I was wrong about that too! Kellstadt has put on virtual career events throughout this time and they have been just as effective.

Jennifer Johnson

One I was particularly excited about was a virtual panel held on April 29 called “Understanding the HR Job Market During a Global Pandemic.” Jaclyn Jenson, associate professor of management and faculty director of the Human Resources master’s program at Kellstadt, hosted this panel and invited four industry experts to speak. The panelists included:

  • Al Crook, VP, Head of HR Business Partners, Zurich
  • Katie Donohue, VP of Global Compensation, Medtronic
  • Deanna Erday, Senior Manager, Marketing, Aon
  • Nick Thomas, Director of the School of Hospitality Leadership & Associate Professor, DePaul University

Professor Jenson sent out a poll before each topic so the panelists could gauge how students were feeling about the current job market and virtual networking. We jumped into each topic one by one, and each panelist gave their expert opinion and advice.

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It is very common to look for an internship after your first year as an MBA student. I have spent hours looking for and applying to as many positions as I could find. When Professor Jenson asked how confident we were in finding a job, I clicked “Not confident at all.” Thankfully the panelists made me feel more confident as the forum progressed.

Their overall conclusion was that many companies are still extremely busy right now. It is important to do your research and find out the trends going on in different industries. The tourism and hospitality industry have been hit the hardest, so if this is an industry you are interested in, look to other countries and see how their industries have recovered once the countries opened back up. How has Singapore or Hong Kong rebounded in the recent months? Staying up to date with this will let you know what to expect and prepare you for the upcoming months.

Overall, don’t give up hope. Continue to learn about everything that is being affected by this virus and use that knowledge to possibly change industries or delay your applications.

Advice on the Job Market

As with the previous topic, panelists assured us that industries will bounce back. They may look a little differently post-COVID-19, but that is okay. Choose to do something right now that you have control over. Katie Donahue talked about knowing your personal brand, which I hear all the time from our career advisors. Start to prepare yourself for future interviews by knowing what value you bring, which can’t be taught. Companies can teach you certain skills on the job, but they cannot teach you positivity, an eagerness to learn, or any other intangible skills that are so valuable right now.

I am usually very positive, so this is something that I can bring to any company I am hired by. Especially during this time, companies need that positivity in their day-to-day when teams may feel hopeless in achieving their goals. So, find your personal brand and what value you can bring!

This is also a time where we can develop our other skills so that when jobs do open up, we are the first to get hired. Develop your skills by taking an additional class, getting an online certification, volunteering, sharpening those communication skills, reading an interesting book or listening to relevant podcasts. There are so many options.

How to Network Online

Networking is very crucial when in graduate school and something that has been made available to us with different Kellstadt career events. However, now is the time to learn how to do it all online. The general rule of thumb that I got from these panelists was not to make new connections, but to re-connect with past connections. It is a very hectic time for people in the full-time arena, so they advised not to reach out to someone you have never met before on LinkedIn right now. Odds are you will get crickets.

Instead, think of colleagues, professors, old managers, old work friends, and see if they have been active on LinkedIn. If so, send them a short message asking if they could spare 15 minutes to chat in the following week or so. Fifteen minutes is a short amount of time to commit to, and if you know this person already, odds are they will say yes. Don’t simply ask for a job but ask them if they could keep you posted if anything comes up. And have an agenda. Know exactly what you want to ask them when you get them on the phone so that you don’t waste their time.

Well, there you have it! I am happy to say that my previous poll answer, “I am not confident at all in getting a job,” has changed to a more optimistic answer. I really did learn a lot from this forum and am so excited to be able to listen in on more of these as the year goes on. Kellstadt continues to impress me with their ease in adapting to this new normal.

Jennifer Johnson is a full-time MBA candidate in the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business. She has a custom concentration, focusing on marketing and management. She also works as a graduate assistant in the Recruiting and Admissions Office at Kellstadt.


Posted on

May 28, 2020