Shape Your Own UIC: Finding Employment Amidst COVID-19
June 23, 2021 by Eunjung Kim
Every student attending Yonsei University’s Underwood International College (UIC) is automatically enrolled into the UIC Career Development System. Yet, few take action to utilize it, for most students are used to following a fixed academic curriculum rather than building their own career plans. Job hunting is never easy, but the coronavirus pandemic has made it even more difficult than ever before. Despite this seemingly unfortunate occurrence, it would be beneficial for UIC students to rather take this as an opportunity to start building the roadmap to shine as an attractive candidate in the future job market.
As an undergraduate always busy with academics, you may want to start by participating in events and activities available at school. After all, job seekers value students who are successful in their most immediate surrounding environment – an orange with a glossy exterior is still highly subject to rotting if its inner parts are unpolished. With the pandemic requiring all activities to occur online, this condition must have familiarized you with online resources and interactions. Lower-classmen, in particular, should take this opportunity of a digital environment to partake in Residential College (RC) events of their interest. The minimum requirement is to participate for at least 12 hours in six different categories. It would be wise to attend those led by professors or senior students successful in your fields of interest. However, under COVID, it may feel like a huge burden to actively seek RC events you would truly enjoy when you are not even living a residential campus life. If this sounds like your story, try considering RC events as one of the very few opportunities to interact with professors and experienced seniors in a friendly, intimate environment. Such close connections would also make it much easier for you to schedule individual meetings with professors. Because COVID makes it especially hard for professors to connect directly with students, professors who become fond of you from socializing at school events like RC activities may even suggest that you schedule an appointment with them.
Soomin Cho, an alumna who majored in Underwood Division Economics, class of 2013, shared her experience as a UIC undergraduate and emphasized how various career-oriented extracurriculars, clubs, and fairs immensely helped her in the the process of finding a career that clicked with her. Even as a lower-classman, she often attended UIC-exclusive events like the UIC Career Fair, which provided her the motivation to ponder upon her real interests separate from academics. Later, as an upper-classman with a basic outline of your desired career path, “networking is important,” she says. She adds, “This usually happens outside of school – that is, during breaks and leaves of absence. As an exchange student, enjoy the leisurely time but try to ‘productively’ rest by connecting with students who share the same background or interests as you – the mere fact that you are all in a ‘foreign’ environment would make you want to help each other. Also, this is when you usually realize jobs do not have to be directly related to your major – try to envision what kind of ‘lifestyle’ you want for the rest of your life. Even while being in the military, you can build close relationships with successful alumni by reaching out to professors.” The clubs and activities you can join at school are limited, but what you can experience outside of the scope of school is endless and much more resemble the real work environment. In short, start from career-oriented school clubs and activities, take the proof that you have the basic knowledge and skills, and solidify these skills by reaching out to alumni in those fields. For instance, Cho shared that without her experience at a consulting club called Global Management Track (GMT) and all the opportunities she had in speaking to people in numerous industries, she would have graduated without a clear grasp of what the real work field is like. Networking also helps you have personal, informational interviews. That is, you can talk directly to the employers of your desired work position, figure out what they are specifically looking for, and feel more confident in future job interviews for that position.
More than anything else, it is important to take what alumni have to say with a grain of salt. In other words, do not feel like you are obligated to go through the same exact path as an alumnus successful in your field of interest. Just imagine yourself as an employer at a firm: you would want to hire people with talents that ‘add to’ what your firm already has. You need to stand out. Amidst COVID, feeling like you were taken away the chance to access even the most basic opportunities provided to all Yonsei students may prevent you from proactively taking things on by yourself. But how about taking a different approach to the situation? We now have much more time than ever before to reflect on ourselves independently. Reflecting on her past work experience at McKinsey, Cho noted that at McKinsey, they say, “make your own McKinsey.” Similarly, we can all “make our own UIC” – but only if we proactively utilize the time and endless data provided to us.