Career Advice

11 Tips For College Graduates and Students Looking for Internships During COVID-19

University students using computer for their research in a cafe.

The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically affected the job economy as we know it, including internships. Historically, internships have served as a smooth transition into the workforce for college students looking to gain additional experience, but the COVID-19 crisis means there are limited opportunities. According to our economic research team, we’ve seen job openings on Glassdoor drop to 4.8 million as of April 6,  a 20.5 percent decline in openings since March 9. However, online internship job openings on Glassdoor dropped to 30,806 as of April 13, a 52 percent drop since March 9. One in two internship openings have been closed since the coronavirus crisis began in the United States, and intern hiring in April has fallen 39 percent compared to last April.

Although these data points seem bleak, there are still thousands of opportunities available for those on the hunt for an internship. Companies are transitioning from on-site positions to virtual ones to accommodate the influx of college graduates and college students seeking internships. Our research shows that manufacturing, accounting & legal, and computer software & hardware are the industries with the most internship openings available now, demonstrating that select sectors are continuing to hire for thousands of intern positions amid multiple declines within other verticals.  If you’re a student in your final year of university or college searching for an internship, please find several tips below to help you guide your search.

1. Do thorough research and planning. 

When beginning your internship search, first determine what your passion points are and then identify companies that are aligned with them. In addition to making an active list of companies that fit your interests and passion, figure out what you prioritize as part of your work experience, i.e., good pay, growth opportunities, mentorship, work-life balance. In this climate, it’s crucial for you to be open to diverse opportunities like post-grad internships, contract, remote, and freelance work. Once you have your internship search priorities, industries in-demand for talent, and companies identified, set up internship alerts for select companies to get customized internship recommendations sent to you. 

Glassdoor’s mobile app offers a collections tool where you can gather a wide range of data to help you organize your search and help you prepare for the internship interview, salary negotiation, and the final offer acceptance. Remember to reference our robust offerings of career advice and tips on our Glassdoor blog and economic research site to help keep you informed and get noticed by recruiters.

2. Create a timeline for your search.

If you are currently unemployed and actively looking for a role or internship, you likely feel a sense of urgency. To keep your sanity, set a timeline for when you’d like to get your internship locked in. Identifying short term goals will help you gain a sense of control of your situation and will provide you with structure.

3. Leverage your college’s and/or university’s career services. 

Now more than ever, it’s important to lean into your college’s career services program to gain additional internship search assistance. Aim to get yourself connected to a career advisor/counselor to leverage other resources and to develop an internship search game plan. College career services should also have access to resume and cover letter workshops, virtual networking events, virtual career panels featuring accomplished alumni, as well as information about virtual career/internship fairs. 

4. Create or revamp your resume, cover letter, and online profiles. 

Take the time to create or revamp your resume and online profiles to highlight your current career accomplishments, education, passions, and skills. Lean into developing your brand to give employers a sense of your narrative and mission, which will differentiate you from many applicants. Cover letters are critical to speak directly to the recruiter – this is your best chance to get noticed, so make sure to take the proper time to produce a great cover letter. When applying for remote internships, read the position description carefully to showcase the specific skills that match the description. 

5. Stand out with customized materials.

Now isn’t the time to submit a generic resume and cover letter to each internship position you come across. Set yourself apart from the rest of the applicant pool by being creative and intentional on how you market yourself to prospective employers. Candidates need to tailor their materials and message as to why they’re a good fit and why they’re interested in that particular opportunity. Make sure your resume and online presence highlight relevant experience, education, passions, and skills. Plus, providing application materials that are specifically tailored to each opportunity will help yours stand out in a stack of resumes.

6. Develop connections with your networks online.

Tap into your networks that might include friends, professional mentors, and college alumni to see if they know anyone hiring or organizations with open roles. Seek out professionals that you admire online to spark conversations about possible opportunities and virtual networking events and chats. Join professional groups online on (Facebook and LinkedIn) to expand your search and network. Instead of blindly applying, focus your efforts on leveraging your network to source additional opportunities and keep track of your progress. During this downtime, it’s the perfect opportunity to make new authentic connections and revive old ones. 

7. Search for companies that are launching virtual internship fairs.

Look out for companies that are launching virtual internship fairs and programs to help guide your internship search. For instance, Amrock, Synopsys, HP, are offering virtual internships programs given COVID-19. 

8. Focus on gaining new soft and hard skills. 

During this pandemic, take some time to develop and enhance your soft and hard skills. Soft skills are character traits, personal attributes, and other non-technical abilities that help you work and communicate with other people. Some soft skills you might have to study and learn, and others might come to you naturally.  Listening, communication, and delegation are all examples of soft skills. Add to your professional toolkit by expanding your hard skills. Use your free time to take online courses to develop your professional kit. It’s essential to take advantage of the opportunity to bolster your qualifications by learning new skills. Having a few certifications under your belt will be helpful when applying for new roles. Given the current climate, several online learning companies have offered to share professional training and courses for free, like Coursera. 

9. Brush up on your virtual interviewing skills. 

Although the interviewer’s questions are likely to be similar to ones posed in an in-person interview, there will be differences between interviewing in-person versus interviewing virtually. Trying to make a pitch about their career qualifications and sharing their brand narrative via video conferencing software, such as Skype, Zoom, or Google Hangouts, can feel a bit overwhelming, but learning how to interview virtually effectively is key to your search success. Learn more about our virtual interview tips here.

10. Think about getting a virtual career coach. 

Virtual career coaches can help you guide your search and fill in any blanks you might have about the direction you’d like to go in career-wise. Career coaches cover resume and cover letter development, structuring your LinkedIn profile and online presence, all while helping you curate an internship search strategy. 

11. Be patient with slower processes.

Try to be patient with yourself and employers. This is a tough time for us all, and companies are experiencing challenges undergoing so much change in a short time. Recognize that processes will go slower than usual, given that companies are trying to adapt to our new normal.

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