While the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has taken a toll on the global economy and job markets across many fields, Saint Leo University is helping students with valuable career support this month.

A Week of Making Valuable Connections

During the week of Oct. 19, the university is proudly hosting 'Serious Business: Connecting to What's Next.' This fully virtual event will feature a variety of practical sessions on career-related subjects. These include sessions on resume writing, the job interviewing process with mock interviews, and even opportunities for Saint Leo students to connect with employers through a virtual career fair.

Dr. John Lax, an assistant professor of marketing in the Donald R. Tapia College of Business, has been involved in organizing the event as he has done for several years.

"The 'what's next' part of the theme here is the important piece," Lax explains. "Even if things turn around with the pandemic sooner than expected, the job market is still going to be challenging for a while. That's why we wanted to build this unique event for all students."

A marquee session of the event is the virtual career fair. As of this writing, about 20 employers across multiple industries are planning to attend the online career fair. These include the Federal Highway Administration, Pasco County government, the New Orleans Police Department, Enterprise Holdings, Paychex Inc., and Vector Marketing.

"At this event, it's important to have a variety of employers attending so that students can meet employers relevant to their career goals," Lax explains. "We offer over 100 degree programs in a number of disciplines, so we want to make sure everyone can make at least some sort of relevant connection."

According to Susan Mickey, the executive director of Saint Leo University's Career Services office, the employers were selected based on several factors.

"Several of these employers have hired Saint Leo alumni before or have expressed interest in the high-quality alumni we produce," Mickey says.

She says her team has been running at full speed to make more headway in connecting Saint Leo students to prospective employers. One initiative launched in 2018 was Handshake, an online platform through which employers can list job and internship opportunities specifically to Saint Leo students.

"Since we launched Handshake, we've really worked hard to make more connections with employers across all fields," Mickey says.

Transforming Saint Leo's Business Week Events

Lax says big names like Jeb Bush and Tucker Carlson have attended these types of events in the past. But his goal was to start making the event more relatable to students.

"We've tried to make them more relevant to our students," he says. "We want them to walk away feeling more confident in their career search."

In the future, his goal is to include some type of pitch-style competition like the concept of ABC's hit TV show Shark Tank in which students would be pitching business ideas.

Virtual Experiences with Employers

According to Lax, the virtual format of this semester's event is more relevant than ever for students.

"Things may begin to normalize eventually, but companies are selling their office space, and many will likely move to remote workforces permanently since they've discovered the possibilities of this during the pandemic," Lax says. "That's why this virtual event is such a great opportunity for our students to get some experience interacting with employers virtually."

He cites the social work field as just one example in which many mental health professionals have moved to conducting remote therapy sessions with their clients. Saint Leo offers both undergraduate and graduate social work degree programs.

Career Services Events

Mickey's team has been planning three events for the week – a resume review workshop, mock interviews, and the virtual career fair. She explains how her team came up with these topics.

"The resume gets you in the door and the interview gets you the job," she says. "The mock interviews will help students get a feel for doing virtual interviews which are certainly different than in-person interviews."

She says that while many job interviews have gone virtual both before and during the pandemic, preparation is still critical.

"The importance of students being prepared for interviews has never changed and will always remain. The only difference is how the interviews are conducted," Mickey says.

In addition, she believes that Saint Leo University's core values can help job candidates stand out.

"Our core values align with the eight nationally recognized core values by many employers," she says. "This is why these values can be a big differentiator because if one of our students or alumni goes into an interview with them, the candidate will stand out more."

Connecting with a Successful Saint Leo Alumnus

Jorge Burgos, a 2007 Saint Leo alumnus and member of the Lions baseball team, will speak during the event as well. Burgos, who has become a YouTube sensation, is a highly successful international entrepreneur who runs a salsa and bachata dance studio and online video seminar firm.

"When he was a business administration major at Saint Leo, Jorge and his roommates started a barbershop in their residence hall which they ran for two years," Lax says. "We have many students who want to be entrepreneurs, so I know he will be a great fit for this event and is a fantastic example of how someone used their Saint Leo degree to go on to do great things."

Other Engaging Events During the Virtual Presentations

In addition, the Women in Business Student Club will host a panel with successful female business leaders from Tampa General Hospital, Rockwell Financial Group of Raymond James, and other local companies. Dr. Diane Monahan, an associate professor of communication and chair of the Department of Communication, Hospitality, Marketing, and Sport Business, helped organize the group in 2019 as the faculty advisor. Its current president is communication major Emily Prengaman. The group's mission is to provide a safe space for discussion on the female experience in the workplace and foster more opportunities for women in business.

Plus, there will be a student-led roundtable discussion hosted by the Dean's Student Advisory Council. This presentation will feature current students and recent graduates who have been involved in various student organizations within the College of Business. They will offer insight on which groups were most beneficial to them to help point other students in the right direction.

Finally, Dr. Kenneth Embry, an associate professor of communication, will facilitate a virtual networking event separate from the career fair through which students can mix and mingle with employers, faculty, and fellow students.

Advice on Landing Gainful Employment

Aside from attending this event, Lax offers up some wise words for students hitting the job market in the near future.

"The important thing for all students to realize is that it's a very competitive marketplace for jobs out there. As you walk across the stage – either in person or virtually these days –so are thousands of others across the southeast and of course many more around the country. If you want a job, it's not only what you know but also about those professional relationships you've made and will continue to develop."

How to Participate in the Business Week Event

All Saint Leo students, including those at University Campus, Education Centers, and online, are invited to participate in this Business Week event. Students should log in to their student Okta account and make sure they are registered with a Handshake account.

The career fair, mock interviews, and resume reviews will be held via Handshake. The networking event, Women in Business roundtable, student-led roundtable, and event with Jorge Burgos will be held via Zoom. Links will be emailed to all students, faculty, and staff in advance of the events.

Students who register in advance for appointments at the career fair, resume review, or mock interview sessions and complete their appointment will be entered into a drawing for door prizes.

IMPORTANT: Students must register for the career fair starting on Thursday, Oct. 15 to have the opportunity to book appointments with their employers of choice for one-on-one meetings. Log in to your Handshake profile from your Okta portal, click on the Students tab, and select the Handshake icon). Click on Events from the menu bar at the top and use the search bar to find the 'Business Week Virtual Career Fair' event. Select that event, then click on 'Join Event' to RSVP and to receive the latest updates on the event. After you RSVP, make sure to register to meet employers in information sessions or for one-on-one appointments.

For questions, contact careerservices@saintleo.edu.