When COVID-19 struck Utah, Weber State University staff sprang to action to see how they could help. The pandemic shut down the economy, but it inspired Director of Goddard School of Business and Economics, Brett Merrell, and Economics Marketing Manager, Niki Tonks, to create a webinar series to assist the community in getting back on their feet.
“It was put in place directly to support people during the COVID crisis because of the unemployment spike,” Tonks said.
In reaching out to see where the greatest need was, Tonks learned many people were filing for unemployment after losing their jobs in the pandemic. These people needed help finding new positions.
Merrell also witnessed the unemployment impact on students and alumni, and he approached Tonks about how they could help solve this problem. The two of them created Zoom Career Bites and launched it on May 20.
Merrell believes this webinar will give job seekers the edge they need to get ahead. Before COVID-19, he said students had to visit campus to access this type of information and training, but now it’s available to everyone over Zoom.
“There are not very many good things coming from COVID-19, but one good thing is that it’s forcing upper education to think differently and to be innovative in how we use technology,” Merrell said.
Tonks credits Merrell’s marketing connections and contacts in making it possible to create the 30-minute webinars to help people get tips on how to sell themselves to employers in a competitive job market. Many of the webinar speakers are senior vice presidents who are looking for people to hire within their own companies. The speakers give insight on how job candidates can differentiate themselves from others.
“When you get into the interview, no matter what the questions are, you can always find a way to spin your answers to come back focused upon your strengths,” Merrell said.
Viewers learn how to do this step-by-step in Zoom Career Bites. Episodes cover resume writing to get the interview, creating personal brand and networking on LinkedIn, as well as other topics.
The specific, intentional focus of each episode on what to do to get hired is why Merrell and Tonks believe the series will help people hone their skills to get the job they want.
“In the big picture, as an accredited business school we need to provide a positive societal impact. With all the unemployment we are experiencing, we think this program offers the needed insights to help people who need employment to be well-prepared to land their next job,” Goddard School of Business and Economics Dean, Matthew Mouritsen, said.
The free webinars aren’t just for students but are also meant to help everyone in the community. Merrell and Tonks pushed the seminars out to the Ogden-Weber Chamber of Commerce as well as through Weber County Economic Development to reach more people who need the information. They also opened it up to Snow College students.
“The two of them deserve all the credit for creating this innovative program to deliver useful information for our students and anyone else who wants to participate,” Mouritsen said about Merrell and Tonks.
Zoom Career Bites runs at noon each Wednesday and is scheduled through July. Each webinar is posted online about a week after it airs so that people can go back and watch what they missed. If the demand continues, Mouritsen and Tonks said the series will also continue.