According to a study done by Yello, nearly 35% of 2020 summer internships were cancelled due to the pandemic*. This left millions of students without the critical opportunities to gain real world experiences, many of which required to meet degree requirements.
With the new academic year underway, internship opportunities are gaining traction again, but are more competitive than ever before. This means becoming hyper-focused on your needs and drilling into an internship search strategy that can help you secure long lasting professional experience, mentorship and training.
1. FOCUS ON SKILLS OVER INDUSTRY
It is common to think about internships in terms of industry experience that will get you in the door at your dream job. But focusing on the skillset will allow you to broaden your search.
Look at job descriptions for the type of role you would dream of having right out of college, then work backwards. Make a list of the skillsets they are looking for and brainstorm ways you can gain similar experience across any industry.
While certain industries like travel, hospitality, events, sports and entertainment have been hit hard by the effects of the pandemic other areas like e-commerce, logistics services, telecommunications are performing much better.
If you aspire to become an event planner, you don’t need to completely change course, but rather build your toolbox in a more universal way. Look at the entire skillset of an event planner: marketing, budgeting, customer service, vendor relations… the list can go on. An internship focusing on any of these areas will infuse your resume with some valuable skills that will add to your post-academic marketability.
2. KNOW WHAT YOU NEED
Are you going after an internship because it is a required part of your curriculum? If that’s the case, make sure you are meeting all the elements needed to obtain full credit.
Be overly transparent with hiring managers and direct supervisors throughout the process. Be as proactive in the projects you are working on to make sure you are checking off all the boxes. If you come to find you are not meeting a requirement, talk to your superiors and your advisors to see how things can be adjusted.
4. OPTIMIZE YOUR PERSONAL BRAND
You may not ever meet your future employer face-to-face, so healthy digital footprint is critical to landing an internship. Make sure your social media is professional, and (more importantly) responsible. No matter what your position on social distancing and masks is, don’t post yourself at a party with 100 people playing flip cup.
Make sure your LinkedIn and Handshake profiles are current with your core areas of focus – remember, we are focusing on skillsets over industries right now! Post interesting articles related to your area of study and engage in conversations that demonstrate your ability to connect what you are learning in the classroom to the real world.
5. BUILD YOUR NETWORK
Yep, it’s still possible to connect with new people in the midst of Zoom lectures and social distancing. Networking is still the best way to secure internship and work opportunities.
Get to know your professors. I can’t stress enough the value of office hours. Even in a pandemic world, professors have scheduled time where their door (real or virtual) is available to you to discuss the lecture or any relevant topic. Make sure you are taking the time to engage and become more than just another Zoom square.
Attend virtual lectures. These are still opportunities to meet with new professionals. Turn your camera on, engage with the topic being discussed and make sure to connect with the speaker following the discussion.
Talk about what you are going after – to everyone. Even if you are “off at college” from the comfort of your childhood home. If your neighbor is itching to hear about your unique college experience, tell them! You never know who will be thinking of you or want to offer help.
6. GET SCRAPPY
While posted internships are still out there, if you work your network effectively you may have the opportunity to create your own internship. Research companies and organizations that are of interest to you and may need some support (think nonprofits and small businesses). If they aren’t currently offering an internship program, present them with a plan on what you can do to offer support in exchange for school credit.
Talk to your guidance counselor or departmental advisors about what is required to get credit for internship work and present it to the employer.
The ability to adapt is going to be the most critical life skill hiring managers look for coming out of the pandemic. Starting your career with an internship that demonstrates this ability to find grace under pressure and be flexible to the curveballs life throws, will serve you well.
Liz Helton of Holian Associates is a Personal Branding Expert and Resume Writer based in Northern California. She understands that college students and recent college grads have very specific career needs and may need help launching their career – and nowhere to turn. Previously, Liz spent nearly 10 years in Public Relations, giving her the unique ability to craft concise messaging points and develop story-based resumes that spark action. Liz has a B.A. in Journalism (Public Relations) from California State University, Chico, and is an active member of the National Resume Writers’ Association. Learn more about Liz on our website and at www.LinkedIn.com/in/lizhelton.