Complications arise with summer internships during COVID-19 pandemic

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As the spring semester winds down, college students are running into complications with summer internships, including some being canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"All the employers are in the same boat, everybody is struggling [to try] to figure out how to pivot," said Jennifer Rogers, associate director of the Employer Relations Career Development Center at the University of St. Thomas. "They all say that the health and safety of these college students is their first and foremost concern. If they didn't think they could make an internship safe, then they just don't want to risk anything."

Aaliyah Danielson, a junior at Bethel University, is studying to be a pediatric nurse. She was one of 18 students selected for a summer internship at Children's Minnesota, from a pool of about 400 applicants. She said the prestigious internship has now been canceled.

"It was very tough and it still is tough," Danielson said. "There were some tears. It's kind of been my dream."

Danielson said she has wanted to be a critical care nurse since she was 11 years old, when a serious car crash left her temporarily paralyzed.

"I was super excited for this opportunity. It's a once in a lifetime thing. I've always wanted to work at Children's [Hospital]," Danielson said. "It's just kind of losing that extra opportunity to get my feet in the door."

Career counselors told 5 EYEWITNESS News most college students will have to deal with a change of plans for this summer.

College seniors face job worries, family stress amid virus

"At this point, I don't know of any internships that aren't virtual," said Maggie Tomas, director of the Graduate Business Career Center at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management. "A lot of them are also being reduced, so instead of having a 10-to-12-week internship, a lot of students are looking at anywhere from 4-to-8-week internships."

Tomas has these recommendations for students looking for new opportunities:

  • Try to network through family or friends
  • Market your skills on social media, including any specific talents you have or projects you are willing to take on
  • Consider volunteering or building your resume at a nonprofit
  • Step outside your comfort zone 

"I think students can make choices that potentially feel a little less safe," Tomas said. "A lot of times, students pick the internship or the job because it felt like the stable, right thing to do. Right now, everything is a little unstable, so what is it you really want to do? Maybe you could try to do that. This is the time to try and explore that."

Tomas said certain fields may need extra help right now and have unexpected opportunities for students.

"There are certain industries that are still hiring a lot," Tomas explained. "That tends to be big tech, that tends to be retail and it tends to be parts of health care."

Rogers added, "Being strategic and being flexible are the watchwords right now. If an individual can show that they're continually upgrading their skills, even though things may go dark for a little while, they'll have things to put on their resume and they'll be able to say, 'I've still been moving forward during this time.'"