After half a century working in STEM, Susan J. Feingold ’61 launched a career as a full-time composer
In the wake of COVID-19, the U.S. labor force has seen tens of millions of layoffs and furloughs, thousands of small-business closures, and countless dollars of lost income. No matter how you measure it, the fallout will leave a lasting mark on the country’s economy and how people approach their careers. With alumnae across generations out of work, looking to change jobs, or rethinking their trajectory altogether, Beyond Barnard, the College’s one-stop shop for career resources for alumnae and students, put together a webinar series for alumnae that built on their virtual job search programs. Throughout the series, Christine Valenza Shin ’84 and Alexa Hammel ’13 of Beyond Barnard’s advising and programs team shared best practices for how to plan and execute an effective job search or career shift during challenging times.
It takes more patience, flexibility, and resilience,” Shin says of searching for a job during a crisis versus times of relative calm. “There will be more applicants, more waiting, and more rejections. Plus, networking is even more essential but can be slower to produce results. It can all be very discouraging.”
To engage with alumnae about how they could begin to overcome these hurdles, the webinar series covered topics such as résumé building, utilizing LinkedIn, negotiating salary and benefits, and many others. In a sign of the times, demand for the webinar series was high. Approximately 75 alumnae took part in each session, compared with 25 when it was last presented — an increase of 200%.
One alumna who found the series especially helpful was Mandy Huang ’80, a technical writer and process analyst who is currently consulting for a hedge fund.
“I needed advice from a smart, independent source about how to pivot my skills,” says Huang about why she chose to attend. “Is it worth spending a large amount of money to learn a new skill? Even if I spent the time and money, would a future employer hire me if I am over 55?”
Huang appreciated the information she received from the webinars. “When my consulting assignment ends, I will be using the networking techniques I learned. I also have the confidence now to apply for jobs where I may have only 70% of the requirements.” In addition to helping alumnae search for jobs, the series covered pulling off career transitions through extraordinary circumstances. Amanda Ryvkin ’18, a freelance communications and marketing professional for arts and entertainment, is interested in potentially exploring other industries, and she found the sessions on networking, interviewing, and writing cover letters particularly helpful.
“The webinars gave me new ways to think about and approach each of these processes,” Ryvkin says, adding that she now feels more prepared than ever if she does decide to switch careers and that Barnard has always guided her along her career trajectory, all the way back to when she was a student. “Barnard helped me write my first résumés and cover letters when I was a freshman, and really equipped me with the skills to go out and start applying for jobs.”
Whatever path Barnard students and alumnae are pursuing, Beyond Barnard is here to support and advise on best practices and effective strategies for defining and pursuing your goals, presenting yourself effectively, and building and maintaining a strong network. In fact, Shin asserts that Beyond Barnard’s message since March has been consistent: “Through good times or bad, a holistic job search is always key."
The 1, 2, 3 from Beyond Barnard
To get you started on your job search or career transition, Beyond Barnard presents these helpful tips.
You can also rewatch the full Job Search in a Crisis webinar series.
Looking for more advice or career resources? Visit the Beyond Barnard website.
- Spend time on both the open (posted) and hidden (unposted) markets.
- Be kind to yourself, and check in with people from your support network.
- Balance your search with learning new skills, volunteering, hobbies, and other activities.
- Review first for formatting and then for strengthening language.
- Quantify scope and focus on specific accomplishments and results.
- Create a separate “everything” résumé, where you can store older entries and draft new bullets.
- Don’t rewrite your résumé in paragraph form.
- Use specific examples and brief stories to demonstrate experience and skills.
- Add the name of the organization you are applying to in each paragraph.
- Use the “About” section to frame experience, what you are looking for, and what you will bring.
- Add as many skills as possible to the “Skills” section.
- Always include a photo. It needn’t be a professional headshot. Cell phone shots are fine.
- Use LinkedIn and other social media to reconnect with people and search for new contacts.
- Barnard alumnae are everywhere! Visit the Barnard College “company page” on LinkedIn.
- Keep your outreach short and specific. Start by asking to connect online.
- Go in knowing 3 key things you want the employer to know about you by the end.
- For virtual: camera angle straight on, lighting in front of you, and look at the camera, not faces.
- Always plan several questions to ask.
NEGOTIATING SALARY & BENEFITS
- Use multiple sources to determine market rate and where your skills and experience put you.
- Ask the employer or recruiter first, if possible, what salary range they are offering.
- If salary is locked, what else can you ask for that would make the job worth taking?
- What parts of your job are you best at, and also love? Bring as much into each day as possible.
- Always pursue professional development, even if you are new to a job, happy, or staying put.
- Use performance review time to check in on your career development.