Career Development & Opportunity Searching During COVID-19 FAQ

Below are some questions that we’ve heard from students over the past few weeks and that may be on other students’ minds. Our responses are general enough to offer guidance to a range of circumstances and situations. We can’t stress enough: there is no one size fits all for your career development. Please set up an appointment through Handshake to discuss your situation in more detail.

I currently have a job, but it’s on pause now. How do I ask my employer about working remotely?

If you want to and can work remotely, but your employer hasn’t yet approached you about this, we recommend contacting your supervisor by phone or email and asking about the possibility of a remote-work arrangement. Develop ideas for projects that you could work on remotely, a tentative schedule, and a proposed mechanism for tracking your work. Be prepared to regularly check in with your supervisor. Also, be flexible and willing to comprise, and if things do work out, be open to revisiting your remote work schedule on a regular basis. If your employer is not able to offer you remote work right now, but you’d want to work remotely (or in person, circumstances permitting) over the summer, inquire about potential for that in the future. Many employers are adapting to unique challenges so you may not be able to get what you want. You also may not receive a response quickly.

Is anyone hiring right now?

Yes. However, it varies greatly by industry, role, and employer. Many employers are adapting to new work conditions and realities during these uncertain times. Other employers are experiencing hiring freezes and/or layoffs. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply for opportunities. You should be prepared for the process to take longer than under normal circumstances, for interviews to take place over the phone or by video, and for sudden changes along the way. Contact us to help you determine a productive strategy to move your search forward. Online job boards are OK to use, but as under normal circumstances, we do not recommend using them alone. Now more than ever, you should prioritize talking with your networks and engaging in dialogue (virtually, of course) with your communities.

I’m not motivated to look for a job or internship for various reasons, should I stop trying?

We understand. Searching for opportunities can be challenging under normal circumstances and the current situation may leave you feeling overwhelmed, anxious, unmotivated, frustrated, and more. We encourage you to give yourself time to adjust to the new virtual environment and when you feel ready, you can move forward with your opportunity search at your own pace. There are also many other ways to spend your time this summer or after you graduate (see number 9 for some ideas). There are many positive things to do beyond traditional employment!

I have a job or internship, or other experience lined up for the summer, will it fall through? Should I pursue other opportunities even if I’ve already accepted something?

We don’t know, but we really hope not! The stability of whatever your plans are depends on many factors. Many opportunities will not be impacted, while others already have. In general, we strongly advise against continuing to search for opportunities once you’ve already made a commitment. However, these are extenuating circumstances, and in some cases, it may be wise to seek out back-up plans in case things fall through.

I have a job or internship lined up for the summer, but I haven’t heard from my employer recently, should I contact them for an update?

Yes. We hope that your employer will be in touch with you soon if they have not already made contact, but there is no harm in proactively contacting them. We recommend emailing or calling your employer to see how they are doing and update them on how you are doing. We suggest letting them know that you are eager to begin work this summer and to please contact you should anything change with your job or other opportunity.

What do I do if my employment plans fall through?

We really hope that doesn't happen, but if it does:

  1. Please contact us so we can support you.
  2. Consider asking your employer if there are any other positions at the organization that are still available.
  3. Consider asking your employer if there is a way to work at a reduced schedule (for example, you were supposed to work full-time, but you propose a part-time arrangement).
  4. If your financial circumstances allow for it, consider proposing an unpaid opportunity, at least for a time, to be re-evaluated later.
  5. If the previous ideas aren’t possible or don’t work out for you, move on and let the employer know that you’d like to be considered for opportunities in the future.
  6. Consider contacting previous employers and/or other employers that you were previously pursuing and/or interviewed with to inquire about potential opportunities.
  7. Start a new search and/or pursue other opportunities.

I was planning to be in NYC this summer, but now I’m home away from the city and I don’t know where I’ll be in the next few months. How do I look for work?

Consider what you know to be true. You are currently home and are uncertain when you will be able to return to NYC. In that case, why not look for opportunities both in your hometown and in NYC? Once you have landed something you can always reassess the situation to see if it will work for you, but it may be best to cast a wide net.

What do I do this summer if I don’t get a job or internship?

You’re in luck! There are many things you can do to increase your skills, build your portfolio, develop projects, and increase your likelihood for employment in the future. Are there freelance opportunities that you could investigate? Have you always wanted to become certified in something or learn something that you cannot receive from your Cooper classes? Are there books that would be helpful to read, but you just haven’t gotten around to it? The more you can learn about the industry and/or types of work you are interested in the more prepared you’ll be for the future. You could also spend time doing things unrelated to your future employment or academic goals: consider volunteering, learning a new language or spending time on your hobbies and personal interests.

If I don’t end up working this summer or getting a job right after graduation, will that negatively impact my long-term goals?

We don’t think so but can’t say for sure what the future brings. However, spending one summer being somewhere or doing something that you aren’t thrilled about is unlikely to derail your long-term prospects. The Coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented event. We are living through a historical moment and many people’s plans may be altered. It is unlikely that an employer will have a negative view of employment gaps during this time. Additionally, you may learn something or experience something during this time that might positively impact your future trajectory in unexpected ways. Try your hardest to remember that you are not alone in this disruption and there may be positive benefits to having time to pursue other things aside from work.

I’m scared that I’m going to be stuck inside for a while, what can I do at home to better prepare myself for an eventual job, internship or other kind of professional experience?

If you feel up to it, during your time at home you can research potential employers, graduate school programs, or other opportunities. You can research other aspects of the industry you want to be in. We strongly recommend tapping into your existing community and networks, and trying to meet new people, virtually of course, as part of your research efforts. Speaking directly with people who have experience in the industries, organizations, and types of work that interest you is always a great way to learn, and now, perhaps more than ever, people may be hungry for social connection. Think creatively about ways to expand your network using online tools, video, and phone calls. You can also work on your resume, any available applications, and your portfolio. You can also use this time at home to read, become better organized, and learn more skills. Overall, being at home can be a very productive time.

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.