Did Coronavirus Kill Your Internship? Here’s What to Do

Coronavirus has taken many things from many people — there’s no doubt about that. It’s been a whirlwind few months, and every single person has been affected in one way or another.
Students have been no exception. They’ve been kicked out of dorms, sent home from study abroad experiences, and seen their graduations and other milestone events canceled. On top of it all, many who had lined up summer internships saw them evaporate — right before their eyes — as the crisis continued.
Though some may disagree with me, as a previous hiring manager, I will say that internships are primarily to help you land your first job out of college. Here’s the harsh truth: after a few years of real professional experience, no one will care about the internship you did or did not have.
So don’t sweat it — it’s not the end of the world.
If you lost your internship this summer but want to take the time to boost your resume, this article will cover the things you can do now to help you land that first job (in place of a summer internship).

1. Build a LinkedIn Profile

If you don’t already have one, a LinkedIn profile is a must for your longer-term career. You don’t have to make it robust just yet; you likely don’t have much to add — that’s ok! Take the time to set yourself up, add a professional photo, and add your university experience.
Find people working at your dream company, in your dream role, or have also graduated from your school. Find business influencers, people who inspire you, billionaires, the sharks on Shark Tank, or political leaders. Start consuming their content. Take note of the things that stand out on their profile: what steps/degree/certifications did they take to get where they are?
Connect with people: there’s no harm in professionally reaching out and connecting with people you don’t know on LinkedIn. It’s a networking tool — what good is networking if you stick to your existing circle?
You don’t have to add content yet — just consume it. Learn the lingo of the people in the industry you want to work in one day. See what’s important to them. Over time you’ll figure out how to add value, but don’t stress on that yet. Consuming and engaging with content is valuable enough. If you’re looking for a first connection, send me a request.

2. Take a Free Certification Course

There are thousands of free courses and certifications available online. Find a few that peak your interest and start plugging away at them.
My thing is marketing, so I know of a few great courses you could take:
Even if marketing isn’t your thing, check out a few of these other business courses:
Honestly, anything you’re looking to do in your career can be boosted by certifications. Take the time you now have and use these to boost your resume instead! Note, I’d argue these hold much longer-term value than an internship on your resume.
Bonus: You’ll be adding new accomplishments to your LinkedIn profile in no time!

3. Reach out for Informational Interviews

Once you’ve taken some time to understand the people you’ve found on LinkedIn, done research into the career path you want to take, and understand the verbiage these professionals use, it’s time to put it all to use.

What’s an informational interview?

At its most basic, an informational interview is an informal conversation with a professional. Ideally, it’s a professional in line with the company, industry, or sector you’d love to work in — someone who can offer insight, tips, and share their experiences. It’s a valuable research and networking tool, so if there’s anyone of interest to you for any reason, it is worth engaging with them.

How do you find and ask someone for an interview?

A great place to start when looking for someone is within your existing network — friends, family members, the parents of your friends, etc.
You also may find luck reaching out/searching through your university alumni associations, peering through groups on LinkedIn (just like Facebook groups, you can also find niches of interest in LinkedIn groups), or sending a request through a DM or connection request.
When asking for an informational interview, the main thing you’ll want to do is show you’ve done the research: why are you asking them?
Here’s a sample template adapted from UC Berkeley.
Hi ____, my name is Delaney Mann, and I’m a current student at the University of Oxford. I read your article about innovative startups on a podcast I listened to last month and admire your approach to building a flexible business structure. I have quite become interested in the innovative tech space and would like to learn more about it. Would it be possible to schedule a 20–30 minute interview at your convenience to ask a few questions and get your advice on entering the field someday?

Preparing for the Interview

With COVID, this will likely be a Zoom/Skype/Meet situation. A general note; this is an interview, so prepare for it to happen as an interview (i.e., have enough questions), but don’t stop the natural conversation or, worse, waste their time by coming unprepared.
To prepare, you should have:
  • A prepared list of questions that compliment the person you’re interviewing. Make sure it’s clear you’ve done your research about them, their industry, and their sector, and are eager to learn, (i.e., don’t ask the marketing person about IT, or the Amazon employee about their thoughts on Apple).
  • A notepad to take notes.
  • Professional attire (yes, even over video chat).
Now for the “don’ts”:
  • Don’t ask for a job.
  • Don’t take up too much time — limit yourself to the agreed-upon time.
  • Don’t forget to thank them for their time: both at the end of the call and with a thank you email/letter post-interview.
The informational interview is an art and underutilized tool for networking. Post-interview, it’s great to keep in touch with that person — send them resources you found and think they’d enjoy or just check in from time to time. A professional network built over genuine interest and connection is invaluable.

4. Try and Make Something

Last on this list, is to “try and make something.”
If you’re interested in graphic design, for example, why not give it a try? You can do it for fun (build a portfolio!) or send your creations to someone for free — you never know how someone will value that effort.
If you’re interested in social media marketing, why not offer to help a friend or family-owned business and take it over for the summer?
The point of the internship was to get real-life work experience — if you can’t find someone to structure a program for you, why not create your own? Sure, it won’t be easy: you’ll face a much larger learning curve, and you’ll make mistakes, but you’ll take away a lot more from the experience of doing it (and it can still go on a resume).
Coronavirus may have killed your summer internship, but that doesn’t mean it ruined your future. If you have time on your hands this summer, take matters into your own hands and lay down some foundations to improve your resume and chances of landing your first job when the opportunity appears.