Reflections from the Past: How to weather the COVID-19 storm

“We will weather this. We will get through this. And the good news is, we're all going to do it together!”

Seasoned MBA CSEA members share thoughts about the current job market compared to previous recessions, lessons learned, and silver linings.


“Our profession is like truth tellers. We start seeing things that other people don't see.” Karen Dowd, retired professional, former assistant dean at the University of Rochester Simon School of Business (and one of MBA CSEA's early leaders) said it well during our recent panel discussion: Reflections from the Past- how to weather the COVID-19 storm. The panel consisted of seasoned professionals comparing current times to previous recessions, and discussing lessons learned.

Career services professionals are often at the forefront of managing change, utilizing their unique vantage point through regular dialogue with employers, students, faculty and other institutional leaders, to craft the current narrative. Current times are particularly tough for these “helpers,” or “supporters,” given the number people who need their help. It's also an opportunity to do what they do best.

According to panelists Julia Zupko, director of career development at Tsinghua University, and Mark Peterson, Director, MBA/Graduate Business Career Services and the Ivy College of Business, Iowa State University, career services professionals are doing just that by helping students to broaden their mindset and seek out opportunities they haven't thought about before. They are also helping employers access more talent than they did in the past. Business schools themselves are even expanding opportunities to learn and grow, through providing project-based options or “internal internships” to students who find themselves without a summer experience.

Although we are clearly working through unchartered territory, panelists agreed that career offices and recruiters are much better situated to work through this crisis than they were during previous recessions. Technology has enabled much more solid and nimble connections, and alumni networks are stronger than ever. Virtual internships allow companies to continue to engage students through the turmoil. Technology also allows career offices to maintain the important coaching connections that are needed to motivate and engage students, with some students even taking advantage of services more often than they did in person.

Jamie Belinne, assistant dean at the University of Houston's Bauer College of Business (and MBA CSEA founder), recalls being on a panel in 2005/2006 where she discussed the challenges of being in a good economy. At that time, career centers were often blamed for students not having jobs. In a down economy on the other hand, there is more collaboration and partnership with career centers because their role is so critical.

As the very foundation of the job has changed, there are opportunities to be more creative and take more risks. There are new ways to bond with one another, and with students and employers. The tragedy has brought us closer together. According to Jamie, “We will weather this. We will get through this. And the good news is, we're all going to do it together!”

We look forward to hosting a webinar 10  years from now about how we got through COVID-19 and lessons learned!