Pandemic or No, the Smith Career Center is Looking Out for Your Future

During the fall of his freshman year, Chris Walther ‘21 attended his first Bradley job fair. He had no experience and didn't expect to land a job or internship. But Rick Smith, his Smith Career Center advisor, encouraged Walther to go talk to people because potential connections are everywhere. 

"I was super nervous! I was sweating through my shirt, so intimidated with these big-name businesses and everyone all dressed up," said the mechanical engineering major. "But I started having conversations with employers. I asked for their advice."

Walther credits that moment, and Smith's guidance, with propelling his college career. His confidence grew as he continued networking, tweaking his résumé, asking questions, participating in practice interviews. The Cary, Ill., native scored two summer internships. In December, Walther accepted a position with the Operations Leadership Development Program at Siemens Corporation, to begin a few months after his May Commencement.

"From that scared, little freshman putting myself out there, talking to people and making those connections, to now being a graduating senior having a full-time job during a pandemic, I’m very blessed," he said. "But you also have to put in the hard work and take advantage of the opportunities in front of you."

The Smith Career Center (SCC) has a strong reputation for providing resources and connecting students with opportunities. While the pandemic has shifted meetings and events online — like Resume Critique Day Feb. 12 and the Spring Job and Internship Fair Feb. 23 — the SCC remains focused on providing individualized services and support for every decision students make about their time after Bradley.

"We continue to offer a variety of workshops to prepare students for their job or graduate school search," said Ken Harding, SCC's director of employer testing services. "Much of what they need to prepare remains the same — a self-assessment, their interests, what motivates them, where their talents lie, and the kinds of career opportunities they’re seeking. That really doesn’t change if you’re in person or doing it virtually." 

Working with the SCC was career-altering for Jacob McGiles '21. The health science major entered Bradley intending to become a physical therapist but switched to pre-dental after shadowing his career advisor Kristina Montelongo’s dentist. She also helped McGiles prepare for his dental school application and interview. 

"Kristina looked over my personal statement a couple times to really get the message I wanted to get across," the Jacksonville, Ill., native shared. "She recorded our practice online interview, and we went over what I was doing wrong, how to make better eye contact. Knowing where to look can be tricky with virtual interviews." 

The preparation paid off. McGiles was accepted into the Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine for the fall 2021 semester.

While many professions are still in high demand, Harding notes not all industries have remained stable during the pandemic. Some graduates may have to pursue jobs outside of their major as a placeholder until things open up again. They may discover a different long-term field of work. 

Help with this new kind of job search preparation is open to students and alumni. Their most important advice? Roll with the punches and keep learning.  

“There have been things available for everyone — online learning, traditional Bradley classes, workshops, part-time jobs, even learning to code or picking up an instrument,” Harding said. “Employers like to see that people are challenging themselves and trying to make the best of any situation."

Some media in Bradley University's current print, video and online materials was acquired before the COVID-19 pandemic. Media acquired after the pandemic began was done so in compliance with Bradley's COVID-19 safety protocols at the time. The ongoing safety of our faculty, staff and students is of the utmost concern during these unprecedented times.