Another fallout from the coronavirus: the college internship. Many students (including my son) had their summer job plans canceled due to the work-from-home transition, state lockdowns, and the economy. A survey from the talent acquisition platform Yello found that 64% of the employers who canceled internships offered no compensation. Seventy percent of students were disappointed but understanding of the situation, while 26% say they’re upset.
For some students, internships were transitioned to a virtual arrangement, but others were not so lucky. If you’re in the latter group (like my son), there are plenty of ways students can get real-world experience that can bolster those résumés instead of hanging out in your bedroom gaming or binging Netflix (hint, hint).
“Students are good at learning, and now they need to start thinking and coming up with ways to create their own destiny,” says Jill Tipograph, cofounder of Early Stage Careers, a career coaching firm for college students and graduates. “This will be the Summer of COVID. Students have to ask themselves, ‘What can I do that’s productive? How can I create an opportunity for myself?'”
If you need a little help, here are six places to start:
1. Call a Small Business
Plenty of businesses right now that are in recovery mode, especially smaller local companies, would welcome volunteer help, says Arran Stewart, chief visionary officer and cofounder of the job search site Job.com.
“I know it’s not always possible for all students; some may need paying work,” he says. “But plenty of businesses would gratefully receive an extra pair of hands and, in return, students can utilize the time to learn and invest in their future résumé by adding work experience.”
Reach out to local small businesses and ask if they need help. Taking this step will also demonstrate a level of unity with the community, adds Stewart. “Bright young minds can help small businesses get back on their feet,” he says. “You may even land a job when things pick up and turn around because of it. If you’re willing to do an unpaid internship, don’t sit at home. Find a company and offer your services. Many would relish the help right now.”
2. Find or Create a Virtual Internship
Many companies eliminated their internship programs at the onset of the coronavirus in a reactionary move, but virtual internships are starting to pop, and some are still looking for students. For example, the tech company GRUBBRR recently added a virtual offering to its on-site intern program.
“LinkedIn can be a great resource,” says Tipograph. “Search hashtags, such as #virtualinternship or #internship2020.” If you can’t find a virtual internship, create your own by reaching out to companies in your area. Tipograph suggests identifying your skills and offering to do projects.
“Give them examples of what you can do,” says Tipograph. “You could create videos for real estate agents or a newsletter for a professional group. A summer of virtual internships doesn’t have to mean you have to stick to one; you could do four.”
3. Pick Up Gigs
The gig economy is still in full force, and students can combine opportunities to get experience as well as some cash. The key is picking the right jobs, says Jonathan Cousar, ride-share expert and director of research for the gig job search site GigWorker.com. “We did a survey after the states shut down, and 92% of Uber drivers said they lost 80% or more of their income overnight,” he says.
If possible, balance the work with other sorts of gig jobs, says Cousar. He recommends looking into Upwork or Guru for opportunities to offer services, such as programming, software development, writing, translation, or graphic design.
“Students who are studying sales and marketing, education, or business and finance can find opportunities,” he says. “For example, you could go on Guru.com and develop a video class in your field of study. This could become a video résumé to show employers. It demonstrates that you kept up with what you’re studying and teaching what you know to others.”
The great thing about gig work is flexibility. “It’s easy to mix and match gigs,” says Cousar. “Just because you take on one role doesn’t mean you can’t add others.”
4. Work on Skills
Employers will be understanding with students who don’t have an internship to show for summer 2020, but they will want to know how you spent your time. Improving or adding new skills is a productive activity.
“‘Upskill’ is a big buzzword, and there are so many certifications you can get online, such as creating Facebook ads,” says Tipograph. “Look at your hard skills and determine how you can upskill them.” Your school may offer online courses, or you can look into learning platforms such as Udemy or Skillshare.
You can also create an internship out of volunteer opportunities, says Tipograph. “There are wonderful organizations that could use help,” she says. “You can even give back by offering the skills you’ve learned. This can result in projects you can put on your résumé.” Match your passion with a cause. Volunteermatch.org is a good place to find nonprofits that need help. “This is a good time to pay it forward,” says Tipograph.
6. Build Your Network
Reach out to your school’s career services or young alumni office and ask if you can be connected with a former grad, Tipograph suggests. “One of the greatest places to start is with the GOLD: graduates of the last decade,” she says. “They graduated during the recession, and the war wounds are still there. They remember what it’s like to get a job in a bad economy, and they’re not so senior they don’t understand what’s going on with hiring.”
Ask to have a Zoom meeting with them, and ask if they have any thoughts on projects you can do over the summer. “This is how opportunities occur,” says Tipograph. “Taking the initiative networking is critically important, and it’s paving the way for what you’ll need to do in the future. Young people who show initiative, hunger, passion, and knowledge about a company are demonstrating soft skills, and that is what companies want to see.”