It’s that time of year again. Students are gearing up in hopes of finding a fulfilling internship or co-op position.
You’re eager to apply what you’ve learned in school to the real world. But landing an internship may seem like an uphill battle given the COVID-19 health crisis. Is finding one even possible with a pandemic still in the air?
The short answer is: yes!
Work While You Learn
Despite the pandemic and its ramifications on businesses worldwide, internships are still very much available. Most organizations are simply modifying internships by making them virtual, shortening them or both. Only ~20% of surveyed employers said they were canceling internships entirely.
Interestingly, you may even have better chances of scoring an internship in the current job climate. That’s because many organizations have had to reduce full-time staff due to budget cuts. But they’re still trying to manage the same workload.
Interns are a wonderful way to temporarily supplement staff to complete necessary work—while giving you opportunity to gain on-the-job experience. It’s win-win!
Finding a Student Placement During COVID-19
Here are some tips to secure an internship, despite the pandemic. We interviewed one of our former interns (who’s now a full-time employee), Rebecca Morris, Quality Assurance Tester at VidCruiter, to learn more.
Create a List of Places Where You’d Like to Work
“I made a list of the top companies I wanted to work for, and made my game plan around that,” says Rebecca. Spend time researching organizations in the field that you’re studying, even if they don’t seem to have openings. An estimated 70% of jobs are not advertised.
It’s also helpful to understand why you want to work for those particular employers. Are you aligned with the company’s mission, vision, and values? What interests you in a particular position? Taking time to understand your motivations for seeking a job helps you refine your options. “Wanting to work somewhere is, in my opinion, THE best reason to pursue an internship,” says Rebecca. “I used the internship as an opportunity to get my foot in the door at a place where I really wanted to work.”
Master Your First Impression in a Digital World
With so much of the world of work moving online, it’s more important than ever to present yourself professionally at every step of the digital recruitment process. First, make sure your resume is up-to-date and that it’s compatible with applicant tracking systems (ATS), which are increasingly common. Many students fail to get in front of employers simply because the employer’s ATS isn’t able to read their resume, so they’re disqualified.
Since you’ll likely be asked to interview for the position online, familiarize yourself with digital interview etiquette. You want to ace your video interview, so test your equipment, dress appropriately, adjust the lighting and your camera, and master your body language to make a great first impression.
The Ever-Important Need to Network
Networking can still be done face-to-face, safely from a distance. Moreover, it can be one of your best strategies for securing an internship. “Networking worked very well during my internship search. Use every resource you can,” says Rebecca. “Your college or university’s career counselling department can help you greatly in this respect. Virtual career fairs are always on their radar, so they should be able to help point you in the right direction.”
Teachers can also be a great resource for networking. “Your teachers have usually worked in the field, and they can help you get in touch with the right people. They want students to gain practical experience in the workforce, which can be added to resumes to jump start careers.”
Use Social Media for More Than Just TikToks
Social media, especially LinkedIn, can be an invaluable source of internship leads. “LinkedIn is a great networking tool,” says Rebecca. “You can contact people directly in your field to see if they have room for placements, and provide them with your resume and cover letter.”
Be sure your profile is up-to-date and you have a professional profile picture. “Make as many connections as you can, and don’t be afraid to reach out to your teachers or part-time employers for LinkedIn recommendations,” advises Rebecca. “I made sure that I had the ‘looking for work’ setting turned on, and that my profile was completely optimized for search.”
Consider an Unpaid Internship
Taking an unpaid internship is tough even in the best of times. It’s not ideal, but sometimes it’s still worthwhile. Unpaid internships are still an opportunity to get hands-on experience, meet people in the field, and showcase your skills, work ethic, and worth.
“My internship was unpaid; it was a two-credit requirement for college that I needed in order to graduate,” explains Rebecca. “It brought me tons of benefits. I became more familiar with the type of questions that would be asked of me during interviews, and I figured out what would be expected of me when starting a new job. I worked for free for eight weeks, but it allowed me to make an impression and gain meaningful connections and relevant experience. That made it worth it.”
Don’t Wait or Hesitate
The second you hear of an internship opening, jump on it. Don’t wait. You need to show the employer that you truly want this opportunity, and that you can provide value. Try to prove to HR teams that bringing you on as an intern will benefit the workplace, not slow them down.
“Especially in a class full of other people who are trying to do the same thing you are, you need to act quickly and stand out,” cautions Rebecca. “Call or email today rather than tomorrow. Complete whatever tasks are required as soon as possible.”
The reality is this: you won’t hear back about every single internship opportunity. Companies are busy, and taking on an intern can be an overwhelming task on top of everyday business operations. “Be persistent and keep trying,” says Rebecca. “It all pays off in the end if you don’t give up.”
While there’s no guarantee of permanent employment at the end of your internship, that possibility isn’t unheard of. “I wasn’t hired right after my internship,” says Rebecca. “I was sad, but when an opening at VidCruiter did become available, they called me back and hired me full-time. I’ve been working here ever since!”
Even if you’re not offered a job at the end of your internship, if you show up and put in the effort, you can collect good references and practical experience that looks great on your resume. It helps fuel your career.
Best of luck on your internship search!