Is the Peace Corps still an option during the coronavirus pandemic?

As you may have heard, a couple of weeks ago out of extreme caution the Peace Corps decided to temporarily suspend all volunteer programs overseas so that we can ensure the safety and security of those serving. We are proud that the agency has safely evacuated the over 7,300 volunteers serving around the world. We have every intention of going back to these countries and reinstating volunteers as soon as it is safe to do so. Please see for continued updates of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For those students that are still interested in applying to the Peace Corps, please let them know that it’s currently business as usual. We are still accepting applications for programs slated to begin next year, and our agency is staffed to facilitate this. If there are any invitees at your school, continue to encourage them to complete their pre-departure tasks and to contact me or their Placement Officer if they have any questions.

Finally, if you are interested in doing any online/virtual events (info sessions, application workshops, career fairs), please let me know, and I’d be happy to connect with your students in that fashion. We also have a good selection of online events coming up in the near future.

Again, thank you for all your support and hard work during this difficult time. We will get through this together, and I’m looking forward to hopefully being back on campus this fall.

Sierra R. Plato
Regional Recruiter- Charlotte, NC
Phone: 704.733.0647
Returned Volunteer, Costa Rica

You’re about to graduate and there’s a global pandemic. Can you still get a job interview?!

by Chelsey Augustyniak, Associate Director of Career Education

Congratulations! You’re sooooo close to graduating from college! Although you are now finishing your final semester online, there will be no commencement celebration in May, and the world seems to have completely changed for the time being, there are a few things that remain the same. What will you do after graduation? What jobs will you apply for? What companies are still hiring? How will you interview during a time of social distancing?

The truth is, people are still hiring, and they are still conducting interviews. These interviews, however, are more likely to take place over the phone and via video conferencing. This means that first impressions may not come in the form of a handshake, getting an initial vibe from a site visit, etc. This can be extra challenging for those of us who do not have a lot of experience with this. Not to worry! The Career Center has some tips and tricks for how to feel more comfortable in a phone or video interview, and we can always practice with you!

A few things to keep in mind about phone interviews. One of the challenges is that we miss out on visual cues. Without seeing our interviewer, it is hard to know how they are reacting to our responses. Don’t let a little bit of silence make you nervous. Perhaps they are jotting down some notes of things you said. Remember to speak clearly and not too fast, and always make sure you have a good connection if you are using a cell phone. One of the cool things about phone interviews is that you can have a couple of notes in front of you to reference. Don’t go overboard! I recommend maybe having a sticky note or two with just a couple of things that you really want the employer to know about you, like some of your greatest strengths or a reminder to tell one of your back pocket interview stories.

Video chats seem to be how we are getting through life these days. I bet lots of us are spending more time FaceTiming our friends and family, or if you are like me, you are attempting to teach your grandparents how to use Google Hangouts. One thing to keep in mind about interviews via Zoome, Skype, or some other video conferencing technology, is that it is still an interview. Keep it professional! Don’t let this method of interviewing trick you into thinking that the interview is any less formal. Dress up for the interview, position yourself in a well-organized space with a non-distracting background, and be prepared. If you have pets, make sure they are not in the room with you, otherwise you may have a cat jump onto your keyboard or your dog barking at the mailman in the background. 

Again, all of this may be completely new to you. We recommend scheduling a practice phone interview or practice video conferencing interview with a Career Coach. Just log into Handshake, request a practice interview, and give us information about the type of job you are interviewing for. We will then come up with some relevant questions for you so that you can best prepare. If you just want to practice and do not know yet what you will be applying for, that’s great, too! We can go over some frequently asked interview questions and give feedback on your performance. 

So, if you are about to graduate and you are concerned about having a job as soon as possible, keep up the job search! There are still companies who will be hiring and conducting interviews, just a little bit differently than we are used to. Your job search may take longer than that of past graduates. If you need to, try to find a part-time job while continuing your search and application process. Perhaps this extra time could even be a good thing. Allow yourself to take the time to think about who you are, who you want to become, and what impact you want to make in the world. Think of what will make you happy, but will also provide a living. The Career Center is always here to help you brainstorm ideas and help you prepare for whatever is next for you!

Virtual ‘EcoCareers Conference’ This Week!

Across the country, teachers and students from K-12 to higher education are adapting to the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on education. The National Wildlife Federation has closed all of our physical offices through the end of April to keep our staff safe and to help prevent the spread of the virus, yet we remain committed to supporting the education community throughout this time and beyond. The annual EcoCareers Conference started out as an entirely online conference four years ago for two reasons: sustainability and accessibility.

If you are an educator temporarily moving to distance learning requirements, know that this online learning opportunity is here for you. For all high school audiences, this conference is entirely free. Higher education institutions can become conference sponsors, automatically making the conference free to the entire faculty and student bodies, or encourage their students to unlock free registration by joining the NWF EcoLeader online community. Note that if sponsorship or registration cost is a concern for higher education audiences, we encourage you to reach out to us at

Participants can attend the conference as a whole or just log in for the sessions that are of most interest. You can find the full conference agenda here.


We look forward to “seeing” you there!

3/30/20 Economic Updates & Thoughts

The Federal government has passed a $2 trillion spending package that addresses a lot of needs. Research into cures, support for medical professionals and hospitals, small business loans, extended unemployment benefits, raised caps on unemployment insurance, lots of cleaning of federal buildings/parks/properties, and direct payouts to Americans who are below certain income criteria. (Individual taxpayers who make under $99,000 per year, or married couples who make under $198,000 jointly.)
These payouts are based on tax filing information from 2018 and 2019 tax returns, and do not require additional paperwork.  The up to $1200 per person/$2400 per couple plus $500 per child checks are reportedly going to start arriving within 3 weeks.
While important, my view is that these will be the first of several economic stimulus packages that will be required. Chris Wall from The Policy Group, a NC based public policy advocacy group, thinks there will be at least 1 or 2 more packages passed in the coming weeks.  There have also been statements by Congressional Leadership that additional bills will be needed.
Employers from around the economy are currently evaluating their staffing needs, and from what I can tell, there will be some difficult times ahead, but once the crisis subsides, the guidance I’ve seen is that there will be an economic rebound.
However, there are changes occurring now that will permanently affect the role of work, and how we work.  For example, the stimulus bill mentioned above has more than $400,000,000 for expanding rural broadband access.  This will mean more people have the option to work from home, more often.  It will also mean there will be more need for broadband technicians, IT professionals, network administrators etc. than even a month ago.
As we get more updates, we’ll post them here at the blog.

3/30/20 Cool Opportunities

Cool Local Jobs
Cool Local Internships
Cool Internships
Some of Big Tech’s internships for the summer are cancelled, while others are full speed ahead. Check them out here.

Cool Jobs
Webinar-Based Hiring Events

The Career Center is Here for You

As the Career Center continues to serve students and alumni remotely, we’ve repurposed our blog to keep you up to date on economic trends, businesses who are hiring during the economic downturn, a weekly “cool jobs” post to highlight some of the interesting opportunities in Handshake, stories of hope from previous recessions, and best practices for job searching right now (yes, you can still job search right now!). You can use the menu on the left to navigate to topics, or read the latest posts below. You will find old content on here; we’ve kept it because it’s still good content. Explore! And, as always, if you have questions, please be in touch. Right now, the best way to contact us is

As always, you can access all of the services the Career Center has to offer (including virtual appointments and online resume and cover letter reviews) through our website and on Handshake.  We are sharing additional articles and resources on our Twitter page @UNCACareer.

3/26/20 Covid 19 update from Land of Sky Regional Council

Special legislative updates

Buncombe County- Stay Home, Stay Safe
  • Local declaration for Buncombe county only
  • Interpretive document that breaks down the legalese
  • All Buncombe County residents should stay home without essential functions, including: Grocery store, pharmacy, exercise/movement, healthcare, takeout, give care, receive deliveries
  • Should not go out if sick
  • Don’t work unless essential
  • No contact with people, keep the 6 foot distance
  • No travel unless completely essential
Essential businesses are defined as:
  • Healthcare operations (not exercise/fitness)
  • Government functions
  • Critical infrastructure (construction, utilities, telecom, airports etc.)
  • Essential retail: gas stations, farmers markets, food retail, shipped food (like blue apron), laundromats, auto repair, etc.
  • Educational institutions, providers of essential services to the economic disadvantaged, warehouses, plumbers, exterminators, etc.
  • News Media
  • Child Care services
Minimum basic operation is another thing defined by the order: non essential business is ok if for minimal things…ie. sending someone to check on perishable goods, process payroll etc.
Exception also granted for manufacturers who retool for production of ppe or disinfectants, medical equipment etc.
If someone lives in BC but works out of county: Buncombe county can’t regulate outside counties, so people can travel to work.  Travel into Buncombe county for non BC residents is ok if work is considered essential.  No requirement for documentation saying you’re essential.  Business doesn’t need to prove “essential” either.   email with questions.
The Policy Group update:
  • Federal updates: Senate passed 2.2 trillion dollars for covid response, Covers all agencies of the federal government, including direct payments to individuals 75k (single) 150k (married jointly) or less eligible for 1200 dollars and 500 per child.  (Likely checks will start arriving in May) IRS will check tax returns and send checks, nothing is required to be filed by individuals.
  • Unemployment insurance, lots of money for both state and federal
  • Money for hospital systems both state and local, money for Personal Protective Equipment
  • Money for farmers seeing losses due to Covid 19 response
  • State and local grants
  • 2.2 trillion is the largest in history for this kind of event
  • 1 or 2 more bills will likely be passed, likely smaller
  • Money for SBA for small business disaster loans
  • Senate passed, house is debating now, pass within the next 2-3 hours
Raleigh updates;
  • Governor has been cautious calling general assembly back into session, wanted to see what was coming from federal government, then call session to maximize the options for the state
  • Covid 19 select committee-Economic development, healthcare, others.
  • More activity to come

3/26/20 “Emergency Business Planning for Local Business Leaders” Presentation

The following represent the notes and major takeaways from Bill Gilliland’s presentation “Emergency Business Planning for Local Business Leaders” on Thursday March 26th 2020.  The content is Mr. Gilliland’s (contact information at end of post). This information may be most useful to the employers we work with.

Step 1: Move from B.E.D. and become an O.A.R.

  • OAR- Recognize Opportunity, Be Accountable, Be readily Relatable
  • BED- Avoid Blame, Excuses, Denial
Step 2: Remain Calm
  • Lead your people
  • Look for small wins
  • Ask yourself and your team what business are we in…what can we be in?
  • Sometimes less news is better, set boundaries around how much news you take in
  • Change your plan from what it was in the beginning of the year.  There is a new reality now, what can you do to change your plan?
Step 3: Positive communication
  • “I don’t know” is OK, and lets your clients/customers/employees know you’re taking it seriously
  • What is the plan for after the crisis?  What can you do now to plan for when the quarantines end?
  • Operate with passion and enthusiasm, your team can tell, and will follow
  • Communicate with your customers, it’s not about sales right now, it’s about people
  • Stay positive in the community as business leaders.  Your optimism/positivity will be rewarded and needed by those who cannot be as positive right now
Step 4: Know that technology is the new norm
  • Work from home is often more productive, give your employees the ability to do so if you can
  • Remember you’re in the business of human management (they’re still people, who are scared, looking for positive influences. What can you address in your  policies (reports, meetings etc.) to reflect the new work from home reality?)
  • What metrics will you implement to know if your team is being successful?
  • Come up with plans for virtual customer service: Does your team have scripts to respond to calls? Do they know how to route calls? etc.
  • Learn the communication tools, do training (Zoom, Google Hangouts, etc.)
  • This pandemic will last weeks or months, make plans now
Step 5: Cashflow management, cash will be king
  • Control costs- Look for recurring payments that could be cut to save costs
  • Work with your banker to extend credit lines, look at loans through SBA. What funds are available through new governmental programs?
  • Work with your suppliers and partners- Can you work a deal for longer term payments?  Can prices be adjusted?
  • What can be postponed? (Maintenance, building upgrades, purchases etc.)
  • Cost structures- What ways can you address costs to keep as many of your employees on payroll as you can? Can people be shifted into different roles? Could different hours accommodate more people?
Step 6:  Your people are important, get the most from them.
  • Encourage creativity, build trust
  • Change their mindset from fear to focus- What projects have been on the backburner that now can get more attention? Who could lead new teams, and what training would they need to do so? etc.
  • Adopt new standards where appropriate- What new metrics need to be adopted? What in the SOP is different with new work from home expectations?
  • Move people from cost center to profit center.  For example, restaurant servers who are now delivery drivers.
  • Train, and retrain  – The world will change as a result of this this virus. What can you train your team to do? What can you retrain on?
  • Establish guidelines for the next in command? Who’s the next one up if someone gets sick or sidelined?
  • Keep as many employees as you can. Hiring and training are huge capital expenditures.  Do whatever you can to keep the employees you already have.
Step 7: Marketing must shift
  • Keep marketing, continue your existing marketing, it means more now than ever
  • Message and tone will be different, but keep doing it. Example: Ingles “Thank you” campaign. They’re not focused on the sales of the week, they’re focused on how customers are keeping them in business, and how they’re working to hire those laid off in the community.
  • Be compassionate in messaging. See Ingles example above.
  • Try for virtual and viral- Market using content related messaging rather than offerings or services, and use video as much as possible for easy sharing
  • Know your numbers- what impact is the marketing having (leads, conversion, avg. ticket, repeat business, margins etc.) And then know what might need to shift as a result.
Step 8: Sell with compassion
  • How can you help? Sell that.  What can be free now that will pay off later?
  • Stay customer focused – what are their needs, and how can you address them?
  • Prospecting is not dead, be a resource, get on the phone
  • Increase don’t decrease (offerings, hours you’re available, etc.)
  • Now is the time to build relationships, customers will come from the relationships rather than the transaction
Step 9: Take care of existing customers
  • Get on the phones, call/skype/zoom, find out what’s up for them, offer to be a resource for them and their business
  • Go above and beyond, be of service. They will remember how you were there for them and be loyal as a result
  • Build loyalty with a critical non-essential.  Can you send a card/gift? What can you do to maintain relationships?
  • Be virtual and visible.  Just because you can’t be there in person, how can you be there for them, and how often?
  • Remember the 80/20 rule- 20% of your customers provide 80% of your business.  Focus on those that are the most closely related to your business
Step 10: You may have to change business model
  • Be adaptive, pivot if needed. Example, the alcohol manufacturer who is using their spirit to make hand sanitizer.
  • Work with small changes first. What is one percent change you can do 100 times? Rather than 100% change right now (See above, the alcohol manufacturer didn’t start producing asphalt, they did something small that addressed a need and stayed in their areas of expertise, and used existing stockpiles of materials.)
  • After this is over people will likely continue keeping distance, may need to adjust… For example, wedding venues might need to set chairs 5 feet apart for a while, until people are more comfortable.
  • Use this time to make your business better- What technology can you deploy now? How can you make your business more diverse?
  • Remember this formula: D x V + F > R (Dissatisfaction x Vision + First steps are greater than Resistance)  There is dissatisfaction in the market, how can you use that to multiply your vision and add first steps now, so that you overcome resistance to people using your business?
  • Business may have to change products/services/pricing/staffing levels.  Be open to that, with compassion for the people you’re working with
  • You might have to break something, that’s OK.  Your business might have to fundamentally change, be adaptable to that possibility
Step 11: Plan for 90 days at a time
  • What will you market and sell for the next 90 days?  5 and 10 year plans are useful, but not relevant right now.
  • Survive first then thrive- Everyone is in survival mode, connect, survive, then use those relationships to thrive later
  • Work with Action Coach to build a plan (free coaching meeting, contact information below)
Step 12: Look to invest
  • Spring always follows winter- Remember that and invest now if you can
  • Stock markets are off 30%, but they will regain their lost ground, buy at a discount
  • Companies and their assets will be for sale (often for a discount).  What can you buy now that you can turn into a profit center later?
  • Customers will be leaving other businesses, because those businesses didn’t adapt or keep their service mindset.  Be ready to connect with disaffected customers of other businesses.
Step 13 Set realistic expectations, don’t sugarcoat things
  • Over deliver on customer service. People will remember that
  • Put your people first where they can be more comfortable.  If they know they have a future with the organization, they’ll be more likely to help you build for the future
  • Be nice, remain calm, lead
  • Help people out- Don’t hoard items, contribute to society where you can.
  • Be proactive about recruiting- There are a lot of folks who are newly in the job market, what positions could you be recruiting for that would be interesting to them?
Bill Gilliland
Business Coach
540-290-2389 (cell)

Cool Opportunities & Thoughts on Our New ‘Normal’

I hope this email finds you well and safe in your social distancing. Every Monday we will be posting about cool opportunities currently on Handshake. These aren’t specific to any major or industry but are more of a cross-section of opportunities.

Cool Job

Cool Internship

Cool Local Job

Sales trainee with a local beer and wine distributor 
Sales and event coordinator with Hotel group in Charlotte

Cool Local Internship

New this week– Virtual!

Some articles for your consideration:

Here’s an article with 33 companies ramping up hiring in the midst of COVID-19. As you’d expect, healthcare is leading the pack, but there are lots of other companies hiring as well. FastCompany also had some ideas.

Thoughts on Our Current ‘Normal’

Finally, I thought I’d share with you my evaluation of the economic outlook regarding the Coronavirus outbreak. There is a lot of information out there, and there’s a lot of speculation regarding the future of the economy.  Much of the media reporting has focused on the negative, and rightly so.  There have been estimates that the unemployment rate might spike as high as 20%, with millions seeking unemployment benefits through the federal government (see our post about some updates on this).

I’m an inherently positive person, so here’s some silver linings.

1. There are sectors of the economy that are hiring like crazy. Healthcare and sciences are to be expected, but also home delivery services, warehousing, shipping and logistics, information technology companies, and many more.  This makes me very hopeful for the future, because these are sectors of the economy that will continue to stay at elevated staffing levels even after the crisis has averted because they will be working through the pent-up demand that will come.  Additionally, these tend to be higher wage positions overall, which will help ease the economy back onto a more healthy footing.

2. Our students are very marketable. You’re problem solvers, good writers and communicators, and you’re driven to make a difference. These are skills that are very much in demand, and our students have them!

The Career Center is here to help. We are here to support students and alumni so please setup an appointment with us on Handshake to talk through any concerns you have, talk about the job search, and more.

In positivity,

3/25/20 Updates on Workforce Concerns

Here’s what we’ve learned from the Asheville Chamber of Commerce (3/23/20 meeting) and the Mountain Area Workforce Development Board (3/24/20 meeting). We will continue providing updates as we learn more.

Are businesses hiring?

Yes. According to NC Works, businesses are still hiring, specifically grocers, landscapers, temp firms, and the Census. Below are some specific opportunities.
  • Ingles is offering a “1 team, 1 community” hiring initiative for short and long-term retail/distribution/stocking positions. They’re offering same-day interviews. Their biggest need is overnight stocking clerks.
  • Baxter Healthcare is hiring 250 positions immediately. See their open positions here.
  • Advanced Superabrasives in Madison County is hiring. They have grinding products for all kinds of industries and mentioned hypodermic needle grinding specifically as ‘in demand.’
  • Printpack will likely be hiring in the Marshall area soon for inspectors. To learn more, call 828.649.3333 to apply, go to the NC Works website or check out Printpack Careers.
The WNC Career Expo has been postponed until July and there are discussions around it being a virtual career fair, but more information will be pushed out closer to the date.

Were your hours cut or have you lost your job due to COVID-19?

You can file an unemployment claim.
  • Visit DES.NC.GOV or call 888.737.7259
  • If someone is unemployed due to COVID-19, they must list “appropriate reasons” for separation and be super detailed.  This is for full time or part time employees and people should file whether they just lost hours or lost their job completely.
  • The max benefit is $350/week for 12 weeks, but there are no work requirements if they list their appropriate reasons as COVID-19 related.

What’s happening at the government level?

City Level

The Asheville Chamber of Commerce conducted a survey of local employers and is using the 500 responses to help inform government decisions.

State Level

Governor Cooper has signed Executive Order 120, which places restrictions on companies that could gather people together or put people in proximity for long periods of time, and ordering the closure of these businesses effective at 5pm on 3/25/20 (performance venues, spas, movie theaters, barbers, nail salons, tattoo parlors etc.) . He has also decreed the closure of public schools buildings until May 15th and visitation limits for skilled nursing, hospitals, etc. Governor Cooper also signed a federal disaster decree, which needs Trump’s signature. This would open unemployment insurance to independent contractors and temporary employees.

Federal Level

Congress has enacted several pieces of legislation including some stating that employers will not have to front fees for unemployment insurance during this time for coronavirus cases.  Unemployment Insurance is usually paid by the employer during the time an employee is working, but for these cases the fund will be paid by the federal government. Congress also passed Expanded Emergency FMLA now with Coronavirus meaning employers with fewer than 500 employees can give 2 weeks of paid sick time, and then up to 3 months of paid time for anyone caring for someone with the virus, or for parents who are caring for children while they’re out of school.