With only a summer session to go before she graduates from University of Wisconsin-Stout, Natasha Martin recently was applying for a field experience position related to her major.
Martin had questions, however, about updating her resume and about the interview process. Studying from home because of the pandemic, she was preparing to call the university’s Career Services office for advice.
Then, out of the blue, Career Services Counselor Deb Keys called Martin just to see how she was doing and if the office could help her in any way. The timing couldn’t have been better.
“I thought it was pretty amazing to get the call. It’s like they genuinely care and are really reaching out to individuals to make sure they are prepared and doing well,” said Martin, a Nelson native and Alma High School graduate who is majoring in rehabilitation services.
Martin is one of approximately 250 students that Career Services counselors are calling as the semester winds down in an effort to make sure their needs are being met during the pandemic. The students, juniors and seniors, were singled out because they had been served by the office in the past year.
Career Services offers a variety of services to graduating and continuing students related to finding jobs, co-0ps, internships and more. Spring typically is a busy time as students make postgraduation and summer plans.
“We felt a strong urge to connect with students and show support in a personal way,” said Bryan Barts, director of Career Services, knowing students couldn’t just stop in the office on campus this spring.
“The purpose of our outreach is to let them know that we are available if and when they are ready to use our services. Our goal is that students will see that the career counselors are here for career guidance and to feel valued and supported by UW-Stout,” he said.
Martin will graduate in August. She was working with disabled adults for Aurora Community Services in Eau Claire before that contract ended recently.
She has a new position for the summer, as a skills trainer at the L.E. Phillips Career Development Center in Eau Claire, where she lives.
“It was cool Deb reached out. I was about to apply for other positions and wondered if my resume was up to date. I had questions. How do I advance myself and sell myself again? She literally called me just when I was thinking about her. She asked about where I’m at; how it’s going,” Martin said.
Martin sent Keys her resume for review, scheduled a video chat and did a mock interview with Keys.
Keys, who has made the student calls along with colleague Liz Julian, said students have appreciated the outreach. They typically meet one-on-one with students and also do classroom presentations throughout the academic year.
“The student reaction I would say is surprise and gratitude,” Keys said. “If we end up reaching a parent, they seem a little blown away that we’re reaching out and trying to connect with their student.”
Keys knows students are worried about employment as a result of the pandemic.
“With such a high unemployment rate, graduates are really entering into a tough job market. A lot of people are looking for work. A lot of what we’re trying to do is encourage them and let them know a lot of opportunities are still out there. There’s a lot of fear right now, so we’re pointing them in the direction of resources,” said Keys, noting Career Services is continually updating employment information on its website.
Keys has two degrees from UW-Stout, including a master’s in what now is the school counseling program. She has enjoyed talking with students as much as they have enjoyed hearing from Career Services.
“I’m all about relationships. I really miss the students and having that conversation. Being able to reach out to students and talk to them has been really fulfilling for me as well,” Keys said.
Martin said the call from Career Services gave her a boost because with the pandemic “it’s almost like we’re on pause. You know what you need to do but don’t know where to go.”
Career Services provided the one-on-one attention she needed and won’t hesitate to use the office’s services again.
“I can see myself contacting Deb if I need more career guidance,” Martin said.
For the latest information about UW-Stout and the COVID-19 situation, go here.