The Career and Professional Success (CaPS) department at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) has been one of the backbones in helping the professional growth of UNH students. From planning popular events like the biannual Career and Internship Fair to providing services to help students get professional headshots, CaPS plays a vital role in helping the university to achieve its mission and strategic plan.
In light of the current situation, CaPS has adapted to the new normal by providing most of its services online, and attempted to make the switch from physical to online services as smooth and quick as possible.
Tyler Wentworth, the director of marketing, communication, and engagement for CaPS said that when the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) first started back in March, CaPS had to go online with everything. “We were lucky to have all the technologies in place,” said Wentworth. The UNH alumni turned staff further explained that CaPS had always been offering both physical and online services in the past but only shifted to be operating fully online when the pandemic started. “We’re really proud that we’ve flipped really quickly and only had to cancel a few events,” said Wentworth. Although, he described the transition as a “crazy experience.”
In terms of their engagement, Wentworth understood that the decrease in interaction from students this semester was caused by the COVID-19. “Students had to learn how to be full-time students online, and they’ve never done that,” he said.
However, in order to keep helping students this semester, CaPS has extended its drop-in hours since it was really popular in previous years. “We have our ambassadors in the office, and I can confidently say that CaPS is available to answer questions from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, and from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Fridays,” said Wentworth.
Additionally, CaPS will also be providing professional headshot starting this Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in front of Hood House. Wentworth clarified, “The headshots will be done through reservations; students show up at their time, there will be no waiting line and they will have five minutes.” He stresses the importance of making a reservation first to provide a COVID-friendly environment. “If there are a lot of students that come and enjoy this free service, we might do it every Friday,” added Wentworth.
Nonetheless, CaPS biggest challenge this semester is trying to engage with first-year students. “The first-year students don’t know how to navigate this campus yet; they may not know about CaPS,” said Wentworth. He explained that CaPS had to think of different alternatives to inform first-year students about their services.
After the school decided to shut down earlier this year, CaPS was being proactive by involving themselves with the activities by the UNH Admissions team. “When we’re faced with difficult situations, our team’s first mindset is not to cancel our events or services, but it’s how we can make it happen,” said Wentworth. They made an appearance during the accepted students’ day and talked to parents and students about the services that they provide to create awareness. “It’s crucial because it was decision making time for high school graduates,” added Wentworth.
When asked about how CaPS was preparing for important events such as the Career Fair this semester, Wentworth said that it was a lot of work. He added, “This summer has been challenging to workers especially the ones in higher education. But it is important that students get the experience whether it is in-person or online.”
Wentworth explained that CaPS was lucky to have been partnering up with Handshake because of the power capability and the popularity of the app in the United States. “Handshake just built a virtual program in July that we have been using for events such as the Resume Review Day this semester. I am thankful that we’ve partnered up with Handshake because they manage the technical aspect of it,” said Wentworth.
Responding to future plans, Wentworth said that they are unsure if there will be any physical events by CaPS, but he is optimistic that this semester will be a learning process. “The beautiful thing is that now, in the fall semester, we have learned a lot just by the few events that we’ve had,” he commented.
Besides learning, CaPS is also finding out new ways to increase engagements from both students and employers to prepare them for the “even busier and crazier spring semester,” Wentworth said. “One thing about the spring semester is that we will have a lot of options; if Plan A doesn’t work out, we have Plan B and so on.”