How college students can keep their career tracks running this summer

'What you did during summer 2020 could be a differentiator when seeking jobs in the future'

Many colleges and universities have developed ‘micro-internships,’ research programs and other career services to ensure students don’t fall off the employment track while campuses are largely shut down this summer.

In future job interviews, employers will want to know what students did during the summer of the coronavirus pandemic, says Janet Ehl, executive director of the Pulsifer Career Development Center at Bentley University near Boston.

“Students will need to say they were productive during this time,” says Ehl, whose team has been using the hashtag #MYsummer2020 to promote Bentley’s initiatives. “What you did during summer 2020 could be a differentiator when seeking jobs in the future.”

The first step taken by the career center’s staff was to reach out to faculty to identify research projects that students could join. About 50 students will be involved with 39 research projects this summer, Ehl says.

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Ehl and her team have also steered students toward “micro-internships,” which are short-term projects performed for a company or organization. A student could do several micro-internships with the same firm, she says.

“Even if it’s just five hours a week, they can develop skills and experience different career paths,” Ehl says. “It goes on their resume, they can get a reference, build their networks and even get hired.”

For the first time during a summer semester, the career center is offering its advanced career development course online. Juniors and seniors will work with a job coach to focus their job searches and fine-tune their interview skills.

The college has also provided all students with free access to LinkedIn Learning sessions where they can teach themselves about coding and graphic design, among other subjects.

“This has forced us and the students to think differently,” Ehl says. “By the time they’ve tried a research project or a micro-internships or upscaled on LinkedIn, we hope they’ll have a great story for about summer 2020.”

How ‘micro-experiences’ replace internships

At The Catholic University of America in Washington D.C., advisors at the Center for Academic and Career Success reached out to students this spring to find out who had lost an internship or job opportunity due to coronavirus disruptions.

The center created the “Hire a Cardinal” hub for students to submit resumes that could be shared with other campus departments and with alumni groups that might know of summer internship or job opportunities.

The university is also connecting students with what it calls “micro-experiences” that will include doing research with faculty members, says Ryane Cheatham, the center’s associate director for employer relations and assessment.

Students may also do virtual job-shadowing in which they join a professional for online meetings or participate in panel discussions, Cheatham says.

“This allows them to build skills this summer without an internship,” Cheatham says.

UB’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on higher ed.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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