The COVID-19 pandemic had a worldwide impact with unexpected consequences for peoples’ social functioning and mental health. Researchers have noted changes in social relationships across many settings including universities. Social distancing may have negatively impacted students’ sense of belonging in their social groups and reduced their access to this key protective factor and source of stress relief. Not being able to connect to and learn from peers, faculty, and professionals may lead to career distress, which results in uncertainty and the inability to make decisions about one's career path. Pressure to progress and limited internship opportunities posed barriers to student preparation and obtaining information about careers. Furthermore, lack of belongingness and career distress have negatively affected students' adaptability in navigating unpredictable challenges and changes. Many students reported using maladaptive strategies to cope with stress, such as self-distraction, denial, behavioral disengagement, and self-blame, paradoxically increasing distress. Feeling disconnected from others contributed to greater use of unhelpful coping strategies. During the fall 2021 semester, a comprehensive mental health survey was distributed to students. Results were obtained from 642 college student participants for the following measures: Brief COPE, Interpersonal Needs Questionnaire, and the Career Distress Scale. We hypothesized that thwarted belongingness will significantly predict career distress, with this relationship being stronger for the individuals who engaged in more maladaptive coping. Data collection is complete; data analysis is currently ongoing for this study. We will present results and discuss strategies to offer ongoing support for students in higher education post-COVID, with an eye toward enhancing career adaptability through improved coping mechanisms and a heightened sense of belonging. Implications include implementing various intervention strategies to enhance career adaptability by promoting inclusivity and mental well-being.

This document is currently not available here.