With internship season looming, the coronavirus has thrown student plans for the summer into disarray. Internship opportunities have dropped 52%, according to recent research by jobs site Glassdoor.
Some companies are cancelling programs, either due to budget constraints or an inability to move to a remote format. Others are pivoting to online internships or delaying their start dates. Forty-two percent of employers told the National Association of Colleges and Employers in a recent poll that they’re moving internship programs to a virtual format.
For some students, this widespread disruption could have ripple effects on their career plans. To snag a competitive position, students often apply in the fall or map out their ideal internship schedule early in their college years. Others count on internships to get hired, especially in fields like finance or accounting. In fact, about 57% of seniors who had job offers at graduation last year had at least one internship, compared to 43% of those who did not, according to NACE.
How Colleges are Helping Students Handle Change or Canceled Internships
Across the country, college career centers are helping students navigate all the changes with remote support. Career counselors are meeting with students one-on-one virtually or by phone, emailing advice for resumes and cover letters, and adapting webinars to cover relevant topics like acing virtual interviews. The University of Washington’s career center plans to host its first-ever virtual job and internship fair in May. Students will be able to browse digital booths, view videos, and video and text chat with company representatives.
Besides migrating workshop content online, Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, has asked alumni to address how the coronavirus is impacting their industry in virtual events with students, says Stacy Bingham, associate dean of the College for Career Development at Vassar and president of Liberal Arts Career NetWORK, a consortium of 41 liberal arts colleges.
Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, recently re-opened its Summer Internship Funding application for underclassmen and invited seniors who may not have found a full-time job yet to apply. Normally students have to apply by mid-spring for the fund, which provides grants of up to $4,800 to help students afford living costs while working as an intern. For this summer, grants for remote internships average $1,200, and minimum required hours have been reduced from 240 to 80.
Most careers centers are also tracking which companies are hiring, posting real-time resources on their websites. You can access that information, too, using websites such as ismyinternshipcancelled.com, Management Consulted’s list of jobs, Github’s list (follow Github’s @Hiring2020 on Twitter), and Candor’s live list.
What Companies Are Still Offering Internships
The employment sector’s response to internships has been mixed. Some industries, such as arts, entertainment, and non-profits, are less equipped for remote options or face tight budgets as coronavirus has brought much of the economy to a standstill. Most companies in those industries are simply cancelling programs, not surprisingly, Bingham says. “But regarding cancellations, I’m seeing almost every sector represented,” she says. According to Glassdoor’s research, tourism and travel programs have been hit hardest while accounting has seen the smallest decline.
National Public Radio, for example, has suspended internships, while New York City financial-based institutions appear to be opting for a delayed start date. “Many have let their interns know they’re putting in-person internships on pause for June,” Bingham says. But the likelihood of students relocating around the country adds complexity. “More and more, organizations are realizing that a summer internship might not be feasible even in a modified way,” she says.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is embracing the ‘new normal’ and will be hosting its largest group of interns ever in remote positions. Briana Randall, executive director of the Career and Internship Center at the University of Washington, says she hasn’t seen too many internships rescinded yet. Tech companies that have announced virtual programs include Google, Lyft, Twitter, and IBM. Others, including Apple, Uber and Doordash, still hope to host interns on-site but are evaluating remote options.
Where to Look for an Internship or Micro-Internship
If your internship was cancelled, you might still be able to find a new one. Start with your career center’s resources. Many colleges partner with a national job-posting and networking platform specifically for students, such as Handshake or Symplicity. Even if your college doesn’t partner with Handshake, you can create a free profile to access resources, including the running list of employers that are currently hiring.
Another possible avenue, Parker Dewey is a “micro-internship” platform that offers paid short-term, remote projects like copywriting for a marketing agency or contributing to a sales project’s lead generation. Create a free profile to apply for projects. “I think this platform could become more well populated in coming months” says Bingham. “As organizations have to cancel their internships, they might find they can use a program like this.”
What to Do In Place of an Internship
First, if your internship was cancelled, be sure to list it on your resume or Linkedin profile anyway. Landing an internship demonstrates initiative. If you can’t find a second one, or you must work full-time this summer, you can still gain additional skills to boost your resume. Here’s what experts recommend:
Volunteer. A local non-profit might need its website updated or its distribution process streamlined, Randall says. When looking for a volunteer position, “focus on how to develop the skills you were hoping to develop in your internship,” she says.
Complete an online course. Beef up in-demand skills by taking a class through a free platform like edX, Coursera, or LinkedIn Learning. Take a course in data science, coding, or social media, and add your new skill to your resume. For mental health, try Yale’s most popular class, The Science of Well-Being.
Network. Maximize your school’s alumni network and tap people for informational interviews about careers. Consider a deep dive on a career possibility and talk to people who have a good understanding of the job and the state of the industry.
Study for graduate school. If you’re considering graduate or professional programs, this summer could be a good time to study for the MCAT, LSAT, or GRE.
Use your career center. Reach out to get advice on creating a resume, LinkedIn profile, and interview techniques. You don’t have to be an upperclassman to get started. Attend webinars. “We are eager to help students and hope they engage with us,” Randall says of the UW career services staff.
Above all, remember we are in the midst of a crisis, Bingham says. Students will have different capacities for taking on new projects. They might need to help care for a sick family member or work full-time at their local grocery if a parent has lost a job. “For students who were called into service for their family this summer, this is a story to tell,” she says. “It can still go on your resume or in a cover letter.”
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