A Chat with an Author
A recent college grad talks to author John Gardner about the effects of COVID-19 on academia and beyond.
By Katherine McGaughey | May 29, 2020
I was granted the unique opportunity to chat with an educator, acclaimed author, and change maker, John N. Gardner. John is a university professor and administrator, student retention specialist, and first-year students' advocate at the University of South Carolina. Our conversation was based on the changes the world has faced in the wake of COVID-19. John was able to strategize with me, as a graduating senior, on how to combat the changes in higher education and the job market. He listened to my story: I had come from a small school in south-central Kansas. I had studied exercise science, psychology, and global studies in my time at KU. I had cast a wide net as far as applying for jobs from international education, higher education, strength and conditioning, and, of course, publishing and online learning platforms like Macmillan Learning. He suggested three core things: take care of yourself, advocate for yourself, and prepare yourself as best as you possibly can.
“We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to do’ list.” - Michelle Obama
Putting yourself best foot forward starts by putting yourself first. Taking a walk, calling a friend, making a nutritious meal, limiting social media consumption, playing fetch with the dog, are just a few ways to take time for yourself. Implementing self-care techniques allow you to put the best version of yourself forward to your friends, family, and possible employers. John encouraged creating a routine with sleep, exercise, and health as priorities will allow this change of lifestyle to become second nature.
“Fortune favors the bold” - Latin proverb
Being bold means reaching out to those you have built a network with, cold calling a company you would love to join, and show people not only your certifications and degrees but your soft skills. John suggested taking inventory of those you have networked with and reaching out to them in order to move forward with your career. For me, I have a network at KU which can help me find openings in higher education and international education and I have a network of contacts at Macmillan Learning from sales to marketing to publishing to online learning. Those individuals are familiar with my ability to work in a team, to be flexible, to resolve conflict, and to problem solve in a way a resume would not accurately reflect. I can utilize this network to find openings in the fields that interest me.
“Chance favors the prepared mind” - Louis Pasteur
John references this quote multiple times in our chat. Preparing for whatever the next few months will bring is daunting and uncertain. However, it is comforting to know many others are also in a similar position. Preparing yourself with being as educated, as read, as researched as possible can allow for the best possible outcome. ‘Doing your homework’ is vital to making the most out of an interview, an email correspondence, or a call with someone in your network. You can talk about their work and how you may fit into it. Above all else, you can expand your knowledge of a subject by doing this research. So, when the hiring manager reviews two similar resumes, your exceptional knowledge of a relevant subject or the way you were able to carry the conversation in an educated way, will allow what would have been a 50/50 chance, to turn in your favor.
Chatting with John gave me a much more positive outlook on graduating as a college senior amidst COVID-19. His years of experience working with students and honing their potential allowed him to workshop three simple, attainable goals for me to work toward in the coming months. Your present circumstances don't determine your potential, they just determine your starting point. The Class of 2020 may be entering an era of uncertainty, insecurity, and anxiety. However, overcoming this chapter in history will forever change the way we navigate our lives from here forward.
University of Kansas
Katie is a senior who is double-majoring in exercise science and psychology at the University of Kansas. Originally from Wichita, she loves exploring new cities and has traveled to eight of the top twenty most influential cities in the world so far. She loves cooking and finding the best vegan eats. You can usually find her in planning her next adventure, enjoying a concert with friends, or late-night studying at the library.