It's a heartbreaker. Your internship was all lined up to cap your educational experience and to cue your professional transition. Then, the unexpected happened. It's disappointing and disorienting, but if you lost your internship because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you're not alone. "One in two internship openings have been closed since the coronavirus crisis began in the U.S." explains Glassdoor Senior Research Analyst Amanda Stansell.
If your internship was among those unexpectedly nixed due to COVID-19, here's how to reclaim your professional mojo and boost your resume.
The value of an internship delivers.
It's the ideal supplement to the academic skillset you've been honing. "An internship is a perfect way to communicate actual hands-on experiential learning. You are taking what you learned in class and actually applying it to the real world when taking on tasks or project work," summarizes Matthew Warzel, Certified Professional Resume Writer, and President of MJW Careers. "Not only that, but you're also networking with thought leaders, which can lead to more opportunities for later, as well as recommendations for future job-hunting activities."
An internship also provides relevant experience to add to your resume and to discuss during job interviews. Warzel elaborates, "it's a great way to develop industry and professional acumen. You'll be able to learn the ins and outs, nuances, processes, tech-speak, methodologies, and protocols for your industry and role. This can help you understand just where you fit in within your professional space."
While these are valuable take-aways, and an internship is a great way to accrue them, it's not the only means by which to garner these skills and opportunities. Warzel assures: "Never be discouraged if you cannot speak to having an internship. Sometimes it's just the way it goes. But that doesn't mean you can't be doing other activities to build skills."
Corner your niche.
While the loss of your internship is disappointing, there are other opportunities to learn about the companies that excited you, the work that they enact, and the kinds of positions for which they hire. Warzel recommends becoming a student of your industry. He advises: "I also always preach donating time for free for some experiential learning. . . Build a portfolio. Read industry blogs or trades. Stay current and relevant. Then, filter these wonderful newly attained skills into your resume when you start your job hunt again. Plus, this is a wonderful way to avoid the whole 'what have you been doing since…' question from the recruiter or hiring manager."
These are some specific practices Warzel recommends pursuing:
- Consultancy, contract, temporary or free internship employment
- Virtual learning sessions via podcasts, workshops or webinars
- Entrepreneurial ventures (possibly parlaying contract gig work into a full-time outfit)
- Projects – from former teachers/employers/colleagues
Demonstrate your adaptability.
This is a difficult time for many non-profits. They need volunteers to keep operations moving during this high demand season. Consider delivering meals to seniors or working in your local food bank. Volunteering offers perspective, experience, networking opportunities, essential resume entries, and impressive answers to interview questions.
While it may not be the experience you were expecting, it gives you the chance to demonstrate your resilience, compassion, and work ethic. Hone your ability to make the most of an unexpected loss. Adaptability is a soft skill that will serve you well throughout your professional life.
Lean into your network.
Reach out to teachers, professors, and former supervisors who know you and who work in the field in which you're aiming to find your footing. Learn what they faced as they were trying to seed their entry. Aim to find a mentor who can assist and support you in your professional growth and employment search.
Align yourself with professionals who can help you get perspective on how the industry you're targeting is weathering the Pandemic. Request informational interviews, via zoom and phone. When you explain that your internship was canceled because of COVID, you're likely to find that many professionals are willing to help. Having professional guidance and support can make a big difference.
When it comes to bolstering your resume, Warzel advises: "Do your research. . . get a feel for the way the industry and respective companies function in the world, the services they provide to others, and the types of jobs out there in that industry that could pose as a potential new career." He relies on research tools, including Glassdoor, Indeed, LinkedIn, Google News, and Google Alerts. Warzel explains: "Using this research can be a good way to spot industry and job keywords (for the core competencies and summary sections), role responsibilities (for the experience section), and important transferable contributions (for the accomplishments section) for inclusion on your resume."
Another great tip, Warzel recommends "Find membership groups and industry networking opportunities . . . this is a wonderful place to gather knowledge from industry pros." Plus, involvement with these organizations tends to make an impressive addition to a resume.
If your internship got canceled this year, that's not your fault. It gives you a different opportunity than the one you were counting on. It gives you the chance to demonstrate your creativity, adaptability, resilience, communication, and networking skills. Use those to pursue those valuable skills and opportunities that your internship was cued up to deliver. Then you can discuss with future employers how you sought those for yourself. Desperate times call for creative measures.