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Boisfeuillet Jones Center. Photo by Jason Oh.

Goizueta Business School student Max Wang (22B) was set to spend his summer as a tax services intern in Frankfurt, Germany, when he received an email on April 6 informing him that his internship, like many others across the globe, had been canceled.

“Roughly two weeks prior they said they were ‘monitoring the situation,’ but at that point I knew it was going to be canceled,” Wang said. “It was a cool experience that I really wanted to have happen.” 

Wang is one of many Emory students who have had summer opportunities either canceled or postponed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Executive Director of the Career Center Paul Fowler cited statistics from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), which polls universities and businesses across the country to locate avenues of employment and trends in the economy that benefit students and their respective institutions.

According to the data set as of April 17, of the 289 recruiting employers polled, 2% revoked full-time positions, 16% revoked internships and 34% postponed internship start dates. For Fowler and many others working at the Emory Career Center, the numbers warrant concern and a new strategy to get students into the workplace. 

Director of Career Services Don Cornwell said that he expects the number of students graduating into “positive outcomes” to be lower for the Class of 2020, according to Emory-specific postgraduate research conducted by NACE. Positive outcomes, a calculation of all graduation outcomes besides “not actively seeking,” was at 91.3% in 2019.

“Everyone is dealing with a sense of uncertainty,” Cornwell said. “A lot of organizations want to retain the talent that they spent money and time on … I think it’s just a matter of when [the talent can work].” 

Cornwell said that though he understands the current economic crisis and employers’ limited capacity to take on new employees, he still sees many opportunities for students looking for jobs and internships. 

“Having an entrepreneurial mindset is one thing I would encourage students to be thinking about, and [also] understanding what their skills are, what they love to do,” Cornwell said. “Thinking through that will help them know how to apply those skills, and people at the career center would love to have those dialogues and explore what those options would look like.” 

Assistant Dean and Executive Director of the BBA Career Management Center Jane Hershman (07C, 15B) faced similar circumstances after graduating into the Great Recession. Hershman said she left college without clear pathways to employment in a waning job market, eventually finding herself a job “driving a truck over America and planning movie fests on college campuses around the country.” 

“[Higher education] wasn’t something … on my radar when I first came to Emory,” Hershman said. “Looking back at this experience, it is probably the best thing that could happen to me. I learned how to cook and budget and live within my means …  it ended up affirming my interests in higher education.” 

Hershman said that the Emory Career Center plans to assist students by constantly seeking employment opportunities through Emory alumni and providing information on those opportunities to the entire student body. 

“It is not just sustaining and maintaining the relationships we already have; it is about finding new opportunities and helping companies understand that Emory is a great school and Emory undergraduates are smart, whether they are from the business school or from the College,” Hershman said. 

According to Cornwell, Emory is part of the 5% of institutions surveyed by NACE that still plan to hold a spring career fair, though it will take an untraditional, online form. Additionally, Cornwell said that the Emory Career Center is fully integrated with Zoom and is still offering several advising sessions throughout the week, despite the narrowing opportunity for employment. 

The Career Center is also revamping their newsletter and adding webinars and workshops for application and resume writing tips. Additionally, Emory Connects, a page that allows exclusively Emory students to connect with potential employers, is still growing in the employer base and will see growing advertisement in the next few weeks, according to Fowler.

Fowler said that the weight of the current job vacuum can be especially draining on students when considering social distancing and other isolating circumstances that go with COVID-19. Fowler advises students to remember why they are at Emory and to not get overwhelmed by the current situation. 

“Emory only accepts the best of the best,” Fowler said. “And students know that when they get here, but then all of a sudden they forget. Humility is a great thing, but now is not the time to be humble.”

Fowler said that the skills a student needs to attain employment are the same skills that students used to get into Emory and prioritizing how to transfer those skills into the workplace will benefit students currently searching for opportunities.

“Conditions have changed, but you haven’t changed – you didn’t stop being awesome because the situations changed around you,” Fowler said. “Don’t think that there aren’t internships or full time jobs – there are – and now is the time to be an Emory student.”