Recently, I’ve given advice to college graduates looking for jobs in one of the most stressful and unprecedented economies in history. That’s not an exaggeration.
But graduates aren’t the only young people dealing with the fallout of the pandemic. Many college freshmen, sophomores and juniors have had plans canceled as well. Many of you were looking forward to spending a summer in a different city as an intern, but now you’re stuck at home wondering how you’re going to replace that lost experience.
I know a lost internship opportunity is disappointing, but there are still opportunities to make the most of this summer. Just like the shift to working from home has required a lot of creativity, you can also find creative ways to “intern” from home.
First, make sure you’re coming at this challenge with a positive mindset. Think about what you CAN do, not what you originally wanted to do. It’s healthy, of course, to let yourself feel disappointment. I acknowledge that it is really frustrating and disappointing to lose an internship. But you’ll want to let go of what’s gone and move on to other opportunities as soon as possible.
Just imagine being in a job interview a year from now and the interviewer asks, “What did you do when your internship was canceled?”
You’ll want to say that you created opportunities for yourself despite challenges and obstacles. With that kind of response, you’ll demonstrate to the hiring manager that you’re a flexible, creative go-getter. In the end, this might be more impressive than the experience you would have gained with any company.
If your internship was canceled this summer, here’s what you can do to make up for that lost opportunity.
- Explore Career Paths Online
Students often forget that internships can be opportunities to try out different companies and positions. It’s so easy to think, “I know exactly what I want to do with my career, therefore I need an internship in my ideal field of work.” But most students don’t know what major to choose, let alone their lifelong career path. So, use this time to explore.
If you’re interested in human resources, for example, Google organizations in that field like the Society for Human Resource Management or the Association for Talent Development. Check out their websites and watch their free webinars and student resources. Many of these organizations have job and internship boards that might even have some opportunities as the summer progresses.
- Develop Your Professional Network
Use this unexpected downtime to talk to professionals in your areas of interest. Ask a computer programmer what her day-to-day life is like. Ask an HR executive what he would have done differently at the beginning of his career.
You’re not being a bother by reaching out. Most people like being asked questions, and empathy for college students is at an all-time high. Send a LinkedIn message to an owner of a local business. Email a professor you’ve enjoyed learning from. You could do an interview series with 10 alumni from your university who work in your preferred field. What a great project for your portfolio!
- Take Online Courses
Ok, I get why taking an online course might not be at the top of your list. You just finished exams a few weeks ago. But online courses are perfect opportunities to drill down into a specific skill set or to try something completely new. I recommend browsing LinkedIn Learning or Udemy for topics that interest you.
Over the past five years, it’s become easy for anyone to share their specific industry expertise. If you have a professional role model, maybe a specific researcher, marketing guru or thought leader, do some digging to see if they offer their own online classes.
Finally, consider taking a class on a soft skill. Soft skills include public speaking, critical thinking, business writing, persuasion and negotiation. Basically, soft skills are the skills you can apply wherever you choose to go in your career. Believe it or not, soft skills are often more valuable to recruiters than industry-specific talents or experiences.
- Read Books
Reading books is one of the quickest ways to learn about new topics and to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in different industries. It’s also an effective way to practice social distancing! Here are a few of my own recommendations.
Getting from College to Career by Lindsey Pollak
A little self-promotion here, but I wrote this book to share everything I know about navigating the transition from college to career.
Expect to Win by Carla A. Harris
This book is a master class in being strategic about your career. It’s especially helpful if you want to work in a corporate environment.
Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi
Want to master the art of networking? This is the book for you. Learn how to use the power of relationships so that everyone wins.
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
A perennial classic, this book will give you practical advice on communicating your ideas with others.
Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler
Learn how to develop the soft skill of having difficult conversations. Negotiation and conflict resolution are invaluable tools in the workforce.
My advice is to approach the next few months as though you’re designing your own summer curriculum. Embrace the freedom of being able to pursue your own, unique interests.
The outcome of the summer might even be the realization that you don’t like your planned industry as much as you thought you did. That’s a powerful insight. It takes some people decades to realize they’re in the wrong industry. So, no matter what the outcome of this summer experience is, you will learn something that gets you to the next level.
The employment landscape is challenging right now, but the basic rules for landing a job are still the same. College students are loving my book, Getting from College to Career, because it gives practical advice on creating the perfect digital resume, being confident at networking events and standing out in a competitive marketplace.