The University Network

COVID-19 Is Destroying Internship Opportunities At An Epidemic Pace – How Students Can Adapt

As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the United States, companies are taking precautionary measures. They’re postponing events, freezing hiring and laying off employees. Some have even canceled their internship programs. 

Yelp, for example, recently announced it won’t hold its internship program this summer, and more than 2,200 college students and recent graduates participating in Disney’s internship programs at its parks in Anaheim and Florida were recently sent home months ahead of schedule. 

“They didn’t give us any resources or time to get resources,” a Disney intern, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Los Angeles Times. “You’ve got to figure out where to move in a few days.”

It remains uncertain how many U.S. companies will follow Yelp and Disney’s lead and cancel internships altogether. But slowdowns in internship hiring are already happening and are destined to increase if the situation gets worse. 

Students are worried, and their worry is justified. Without internship experience on their resume, students have a much harder time landing jobs after graduation. 

Universities’ responses 

Universities have always played a big role in helping their students land internships. Through their career centers and by holding career fairs, for example, universities are able to match students with prospective employers. But as universities shut down, so are their on-campus career events and resources. 

“Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve already seen upwards of 200 career fairs canceled. We’ve seen over 1,000 events canceled. We’ve seen over 2,000 employer registrations canceled. All because people physically can’t be together,” said Christine Cruzvergara, vice president of Higher Education and Student Success at Handshake, a company dedicated to helping students earn jobs and internships. 

But amid the campus closures, some proactive universities have decided to move their career resources online. Through Handshake, for example, instead of having a physical career fair, universities are shifting to a virtual event strategy, Cruzvergara explained. 

“They’re hosting office tours,” she added. “They’re hosting open office hours. They’re hosting alumni panels online, so that they can still connect with students, and so that universities can still help to make those opportunities happen, but they’re doing them virtually.” 

How students should adapt if they’re struggling to secure an internship

For students trying to secure internships, these are trying times. In some cases, students who landed an internship have been told it won’t happen anymore, forcing them to go back to the drawing board. And, as companies continue to freeze hiring, other students are struggling to find an internship in the first place. 

But the reality is, there is no golden alternative. Landing and completing internships is vital for students who want to build their network and secure a job after graduation. And some colleges won’t graduate students unless they complete a university-approved internship. 

So, for those who haven’t yet received an internship offer or who may have had their internships canceled, the only answer, at this point, is to keep applying. 

“Mindset is an incredibly important thing during times of crisis,” said Cruzvergara.

Despite the impact of COVID-19, Cruzvergara is confident that there will still be internship opportunities. They might just look different. And students are going to have to be flexible and adaptable to what the changes might be. 

“Everything is developing by the hour,” said Cruzvergara. “And, honestly, we’re going to see a lot of shifts and changes from our employers in terms of what they’re going to consider for internships. I’m anticipating, and I’m waiting to see how many employers might shift their internships to become virtual. And so students will still be able to do them, but it may be in a different format.” 

Students can also boost their chances of landing an internship by following these universal tips. These tips apply now and always, even amid the COVID-19 outbreak. 

The first is having an open mind and not limiting oneself by only applying to internships at big-name companies or focusing just on paid internships, for example. In addition, it’s always important to have a clear and concise resume and a creative and original cover letter. 

And, even in times of trouble, students need to continue to use the resources available to them. That includes seeking out virtual career coaching offered through their school’s career centers and updating their personal information on sites geared towards finding students internships and jobs.