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Career Prep

What to Do When Summer Internships and Jobs Are Hard to Find

Deborah Porter

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Summer of 2020 looks different than any of us could have imagined.

Many of our college students had jobs and internships already lined up, professional clothes purchased, rental leases signed and deposits made. We now know that some of those opportunities have been rescinded.

According to research by the National Association of Colleges and Employers cited in U.S. News and World Report, “4.4% of employers surveyed in April reported revoking offers to new college graduates they had recruited before the pandemic for full-time roles, while 22% of surveyed employers said they are revoking summer internship offers."

So the question is, now what? The loss of a summer internship may not be as critical as the loss of a first job offer. However, the loss of either stings, and our children need to pivot and revamp.

Here are four things your college student/graduate should do now to keep themselves marketable and making progress.

1. Pitch a Virtual Position

Your student or grad should immediately ask the company they’ve been in contact with if there is a virtual opportunity they qualify for.

Or they can take it a step further and make a presentation to the employer of what they can do for the company. In other words, create a virtual position and tell the employer why the company needs this position — and your student. The pitch should be as specific as possible and include a sample of the kind of work your student will offer so the employer can really see that your student and the company are a perfect fit.

Students will have to be less choosy and more broad in their search for jobs this summer and beyond. Morgan Peterson, a rising senior at North Carolina State University, was interviewed by the New York Times. Her spring semester studying fashion in London came to a screeching halt because of COVID-19. She knew she'd have to offer creative ways to help any business that might be looking to hire interns. Morgan sent out 80 query letters and applications. After two weeks, she heard back from 15. From that 15, she put together four part-time virtual internships.

2. Take Summer Classes

If the internship has dried up, your student can use the next couple of months to continue their education. Summer is a great time to take challenging courses that require undivided attention.

In addition to required courses for graduation, there are free online courses that can support your student’s development. In fact, some of these courses may be recognized for full or partial credit. Have your student check with their university in reference to receiving credit.

3. Volunteer in the Community

If the job is no longer available, your student or new graduate should offer their skills on a volunteer basis to a company or organization in their home or college town.

Nonprofits are a great place to start. In fact, some universities offer stipends to students who volunteer with a nonprofit. Encourage your student to check with their school’s career center. Volunteer work is just as valuable on a resume as paid work, and it puts them in the right circles for future employment.

However, encourage your student not to treat this like a volunteer position. They should show up on time, dress appropriately and give it their all. By treating it like a job, they show the organization why they need your student and should pay them. It's not unusual for volunteer positions to lead to full/part time opportunities. In fact, bringing amazing value to an organization can cause a paid position to be created just for you.

4. Tap into Existing Connections

These contacts can include past employment, family friends or the alumni network from their university. Most colleges and universities have a robust alumni network that operates at and through the school. Chances are there is an alumni chapter in (or near) your city.

Also, this isn’t the time to be too proud to call in a favor or ask for an opportunity from a family friend who may operate a business that your student’s skills can be a fit for. But let me caution you to have your student reach out and ask for the meeting. This will be an incredible life lesson for them. Refrain from swooping in to try and save the day, as sometimes this can backfire on you — and self-advocacy is a fundamental life skill every student needs to cultivate.

Finally, be wise with the months ahead.

It’s a great opportunity to make sure your student has a full understanding of basic life skills that we normally don’t have the time to sit down and teach. And if I had to choose one, it would be basic financial literacy. I did a news segment about this very topic. Although high schoolers were the focus, the principles ring true for our college students as well.

It’s a new day. We have seen that jobs, meetings and interviews can occur virtually. In fact, experts say more of these events will take place in the virtual space. Encourage your student or graduate to use this time to bring amazing value to any opportunity given. Don’t lose heart. Things may not return to the normal we’ve known, but this class will be more prepared than any before it for the new normal. Be ready. Let them see you shine. We’re all rooting for the Class of 2020.

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Deborah Porter is The Ultimate Mom Coach — a life balance coach for dedicated moms who need home management systems and a self-care routine that goes beyond a good mani/pedi. She and her husband have three adult children and she believes that the woman you were before having kids still matters. Deborah is a regular contributor to "Virginia This Morning" on WTVR. Download her free ebook, "7 Habits of Confident Moms"!
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