University of Iowa professors advise students on finding jobs in a pandemic

Although the pandemic has changed both schooling and businesses, professors at the university are encouraging students to still think about their future during the pandemic.


Jenna Galligan

The Old Capitol is seen on Thursday, March 12, 2020.

Morgan Ungs, News Reporter

As the pandemic continues, many college students are looking to secure a solid internship or job in order to build their résumé, but many smaller businesses are struggling and aren’t as likely to hire or only hire for remote, online positions. Productivity can falter and job fairs may be replaced with “not hiring” signs, but UI professors advise to look for opportunities to build your online work mode.

Professors and professionals at the University of Iowa have gathered lists of observations and tips that students can use as they transition from online school to post-graduation online workplaces.

Associate Dean of the Tippie College of Business Undergraduate College and a professor of Management Ken Brown said students should expect that companies are either fully remote or doing less dense rotations, and are more likely to hire employees in part-time positions, so students should prepare for a different type of work environment in the future.

Brown said he also encourages students to be thinking more about their current online presence. Many companies are more likely to do online research on applicants, he said, which Brown said, adding that students to stay true to their values, but also be mindful of what looks good — or not so good — to companies.

“I think it is important that you’re authentic, you know — recognize that in the absence of an opportunity to sit in a room with you, a recruiter is even more likely to do extensive online research about you before making a final offer,” he said.

Danny Bush, a teaching assistant in the entrepreneurship department at the Tippie College of Business, said he knows many students that have lost internships or job opportunities because of COVID-19, but encourages students to stay hopeful about the future.

He said many students will have to be less selective with the internships they apply for in the time being.

“What they really need is experience,” he said. “Maybe a year or two after the economy starts to get out of the recession and has some space from the pandemic, they can transition to the positions they were trying to get in the first place.”

Assistant Director and Grant Administrator at the UI Institute for International Business Kelly Bedian, said similar to many people in the pandemic, her job and program changed tremendously when it was forced to shift virtually.

She said her program has become creative about transitioning online, and it’s shown that in many ways there are certain things that can be done online for international business instead of traveling.

She said that, although this transition to online might not be ideal for future jobs, students can use their online abilities as résumé builders.

“This shift to online companies is now a skill,” she said. “You can say ‘I can successfully work independently by meeting deadlines without being in the office’ and that’s a really valuable skill to have.”

On the business side of the transition to online work, UI Online MBA program Director Jan Fasse said businesses should also be transitioning the way they look at how employees accomplish their work.

“In the workplace, people should be managing objectives and goals,” she said. “It’s a shift from managing by eyeball, like ‘do I see you in your cubicle from eight to five working, or are you achieving the things we set out for you to achieve?’”

Fasse said this is the same way a well-developed online schooling program should be about establishing the learning outcomes for the course and breaking that up weekly or by module. She said that’s how remote workplaces should be managed.

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For some students and workers, the home environment isn’t the best for concentration and productivity. Brown said each person is in their own boat and COVID-19 is a storm.

“If you think about the kind of boat someone is in representing the environment, they find themselves in working. Some people have swanky boats in great situations, and this storm is actually sharpening their ability to be productive, and other people are barely in boats at all and are struggling to keep up, which is a possibility for a downward spiral of productivity,” he said.

Brown added that living in the world during COVID-19 is not the way people wish it could be, but they should be realistic and not become discouraged if they don’t score the ideal internship or land an amazing job after college. He said they should adapt and understand that the economy will eventually improve once a COVID-19 vaccine is approved and the virus isn’t such a concern.

“If you are in college right now, rather than thinking about just surviving through your online classes, think about building and refining an online persona and developing skills to work effectively remotely and those things will pay off,” he said.