Our world is different than it was a year ago. Heck, even a couple of weeks ago. Many college students were planning to head into an internship this summer to give them work experience In their chosen field, but countless internships were pulled as companies moved to a fully work-from-home environment, and tightened their purse strings.
Allison Cheston, a New York City-based career advisor, believes that younger college students won’t be as impacted by what happens summer because they still have time to get internships and work experience before heading out into the workforce. For them, anything goes this summer. For older college students – rising or current seniors – who weren’t able to snag an internship, the landscape looks a little bit different.
What should I be doing with the rest of the summer?
Cheston’s advice to older students is to look for something that you can create on your own.
“Reach into your network and look at who knows someone who knows someone who has a small business. You can work on a project for them, and hopefully get paid.”
You can also pursue “strategic volunteering within the guidelines of your interest area,” she says, encouraging students to find a local nonprofit and offer services related to their fields. Mission-driven nonprofits are struggling and seeing less donations, so creating a project to help them could be a win-win for both. Many of these projects can also be completed remotely.
She also suggests that even volunteering in a soup kitchen for a month right now would look great on a resume – depending on where you live, what is open, and how safe you feel.
What if I need a job?
It’s also important to remember that there are companies that are thriving and hiring right now. (See LinkedIn’s list of who is hiring right now.) There are many companies, such as tech companies, food and grocery delivery companies, and remote fitness companies, that are doing well and hiring both in-person and remote positions — positions that you could continue to work on a part-time basis even after classes resume. Cheston encourages students to pursue these jobs to help improve phone skills, communication skills, and problem-solving skills.
“These jobs are amazing prep for anything you’re ever going to do,” she says. These jobs help young workers create a great set of skills that will help you stand out when looking for future jobs.
When job hunting, Cheston suggests doing research on the sectors that are currently growing – such as healthcare – and staying away from sectors that are currently in trouble.
Karen James Chopra, career counselor, says that during this unique job climate, it’s wise not to spend too much time debating what the “perfect” role for you might look like. “If you can find a gig, feel free to grab it and don’t worry about its impact on the resume,” Chopra said. “It’s an opportunity to try something new and branch out, with minimal consequences for your career.”
What if I just don’t find anything?
If nothing works out for you this year, then use your time to connect with professionals, specifically with an eye towards attending online networking sessions. “Many professional groups are hosting online sessions, and these can be less intimidating to a newbie,” Chopra says.
She also recommends putting together a list of companies that you would like to work for and research what they’ve done. When they do start hiring, you can prove that you were paying attention and really know the company by sharing what you saw.
Cheston suggests putting together a study plan for yourself to learn a skill you haven’t yet learned in college. This can be impactful and look good on a resume. There are online trainings to be found in pretty much any subject matter you can imagine.
Lastly, no matter what you end up doing in the weeks or months to come, always keep your digital and social footprint in mind. You can always turn a small project into a blog or website, creating a powerful portfolio for future interviews. “This is always important because it establishes you as somebody who is creative and has tech skills,” Cheston says. And who knows where it could lead – sometimes a small website is the very thing that paves the way to entrepreneurship.
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