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Commerce Provides Guidance for Young Professionals Entering the Job Market During COVID

For college students nearing graduation or young professionals fresh out of school, finding that first post-graduate position has always been a source of equal parts excitement and stress. That, of course, is in normal times. In 2020, not only are job seekers finding fewer open positions, but they’re also having to conduct their searches entirely virtually.

On top of that, many students had internships cancelled when the COVID-19 outbreak began, depriving them of opportunities to gain experience and establish inroads to full-time positions. Fortunately, some companies bucked the trend and found creative ways to continue internships in nontraditional manners.

Commerce Bank is one of those companies. By shifting their internships to being all-virtual, the bank was able to keep the program intact over the summer and into the fall. As Commerce vice president and director of talent acquisition Brendan Inghram notes, the decision to offer virtual internships is consistent with the bank’s philosophy of building relationships with students and recent graduates.

“We’re passionate about getting to know people over the long term,” Inghram says. “We don’t take a transactional approach to recruiting; we’re much more relationship-driven.” Because of this approach, he strongly recommends that job seekers connect with Commerce on its social media channels.

“If you’re a college student in your junior or senior year, or are a recent graduate, make a connection with us and start a dialogue so we can build a rapport,” Inghram notes. “We like to get to know people over time.” Inghram says that the Commerce social channels are good for any job seeker to visit. “We provide a lot of great information about Commerce on our social media channels, but we also offer best practices and tips for students and new graduates,” he says. “Our careers Instagram channel even has videos with guidance on interviewing.”

Commerce recognizes the importance of recruiting the next generation of team members, which is why it has a long history of being supportive of young professionals. Its employee resource group, EMERGE, is dedicated to helping young team members develop both personally and professionally. The group offers a wide variety of programming, ranging from networking events to seminars and speakers on topics of relevance to younger professionals. The events have focused on everything from an overview of the current state of the bank to personal-finance issues like how to get a mortgage and how car loans work.

As EMERGE co-chair and marketing strategist Jon Butler explains, the group also offers members the opportunity to take on additional responsibility and learn leadership skills. “It’s a group that’s by the people and for the people,” he says, “which means it’s a great place for folks to take on leadership roles in the group that will deepen some skills or develop new ones.”

While EMERGE is typically focused around in-person events, those have been paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In their place are a combination of live online events and on-demand content that team members can access at their convenience. “We’re learning as we go, and replicating the things that work well,” Butler says. “We’ve gotten some really positive feedback from members, which has been rewarding.”

For Butler, being a co-chair of EMERGE is clearly connected to his personal passions. He also serves on an alumni board for his alma mater, Saint Louis University, and through that he spends a lot of time talking to current college students. He says he frequently speaks with students who have specific expectations around how their careers will unfold. And while having a plan is a good thing, it can sometimes cause some students to overlook opportunities that perhaps they shouldn’t.

“Unfortunately, the current job climate is going to be tough,” he says. “I try to advise them to stay flexible and look for open doors wherever they pop up. You never know where they’ll lead.” Amanda Tomlinson, a strategic planning analyst and another EMERGE co-chair at Commerce, agrees. “If you have a particular company in mind that you want to work for, study up on them and be open to taking any job opportunity they may offer,” she says. “Being in the door means a lot. I’ve seen that approach work for a lot of people at Commerce – including me.”

Butler also encourages new graduates to make sure they’re doing everything possible to position themselves well to potential employers. “You have to really nail all the little stuff – especially right now,” he says. “Make sure your resume is as good as it can be. Have a thoughtful, updated profile on LinkedIn and make sure recruiters can find it. If you’re going into a profession like marketing, you may need to have a personal website. Some of these things might have felt like ‘extras’ before, but with the market being what it is, every recruiter’s standards have gone up.”

Tomlinson adds that she and Butler are two of the many people currently at Commerce who can strongly sympathize with the current crop of young job seekers. That’s because they themselves graduated during the 2008-09 recession. “A lot of us went through the exact same thing when we came out of school,” she says. “We have a lot of empathy for them, and I encourage anyone in their position to stay positive, be open-minded and keep working hard.”

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