The truth about internships during COVID-19

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Southern students seeking summer internships are faced with new challenges and opportunities due to COVID-19. 

Some students like junior management major Jake Miller had an internship planned for the summer of 2020 prior to COVID-19. But his internship was cancelled due to the pandemic.

“[The company] closed in March due to COVID, put a large number of their employees on furlough for the next few months and closed their internship positions,” Miller said.

School of Journalism and Communication (SJC) Professor Lorraine Ball, identified two reasons why it may be more difficult for students to find internships due to COVID-19.

“If places have really downsized, number one, they feel kind of awkward bringing somebody new in that doesn’t know anything about the company,” Ball said. “Number two, you need somebody to supervise you. So, now you’re going to siphon off a certain amount of time from somebody who’s already probably overworked to try to help this student do their internship.”

School of Business Professor Lisa Kuhlman echoed those thoughts. 

“Maybe students planned internships last summer and then all of a sudden the employers were backing down because they weren’t sure how to do [remote internships],” Kuhlman said. “[The employers] had no idea how this pandemic was going to affect their staffing and their finances.”

While students may face different challenges due to COVID-19, Kuhlman believes there are still plenty of internships available. She suggests searching for internships on sites like LinkedIn, where there are currently over 45,000 internship listings, according to Kuhlman.

“There are definitely internships out there,” Kuhlman said.

Junior finance major Jacob Bradshaw said finding an internship for this summer was easy for him.

“As long as you put your name and resume out there, internships are there for the taking,” Bradshaw said.

The SJC  has made no changes to internship requirements, according to Ball. She said students in the department  typically complete their internship during the summer between their junior and senior years and are required to complete 300 hours of clock work. School of Business students are required to complete between 100 to 300 hours of clock work, according to Kuhlman. 

“That’s why it’s full-time and in the summer,” Ball said. That’s why we say it mimics a real job.” 

For students currently seeking internships, Ball recommends that they start their searches early. 

“Do something earlier rather than waiting,” Ball said. “Waiting to the last minute so it’s like February or March … that’s scary.”

Kuhlman recommends students build their network.

“It’s really important to build your network,” Kuhlman said. 

Junior finance major Iliana Dialectakis believes this tip is the only reason she secured an internship.

“If it hadn’t been [for] a business contact I made freshman year, I would not have an internship,” she said.

As students look for internships during the pandemic, Ball encourages students to be creative and open-minded.

“We need to open up our eyes and our boundaries,” Ball said.

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