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Building a Stronger Career Network Volunteering, mentoring, and helping connect students and alumni in their career paths take on new resonance in the pandemic.

The pandemic meant an abrupt end to the campus experience for University seniors and a potential threat to their immediate employment futures.

COVID-19 created turmoil in the job market and challenges to graduating students not seen since the Great Recession of 2008–09.

One of the goals of the Together for Rochester campaign is to build a stronger career network among members of the University community.

Some of the initiatives include developing a structure in which alumni can readily volunteer to help students find internships, help recent graduates get their first jobs, and help one another with networking and career growth opportunities.

Joe Testani, assistant dean and executive director of the Gwen M. Greene Center for Career Education and Connections, led a series of Zoom workshops through spring and summer that helped students gain—and maintain—jobs and internships by transitioning to a virtual work environment.

He also held “Ask Me Anything” sessions, which offered students the chance to speak directly with him about career advice.

In Zoom sessions, Testani moderated conversations featuring Rochester alumni who were students during the Great Recession and weathered the economic storm to find jobs and build careers.

“The most important thing is to be authentic and let people know why you’re reaching out,” Testani says. “Tell them you want to know more about the job or the industry sector they work in.

“Showing a real interest in another person is a great starting place.

The authenticity extends to the setbacks you’re experiencing—‘my internship got canceled,’ ‘my job offer was reneged,’ ‘I’m lost over what to do next and could use your advice.’ That authenticity allows people on the other end to be more willing to reach out and engage.”