The pandemic not only took a toll on health but also on jobs and internships. Over the COVID-19 time span, a major adjustment period occurred, causing many to struggle when looking for jobs and internships.
Many jobs and internships were cut or transitioned into a virtual format, causing some students to struggle when looking for positions and potentially diminish the learning value of an internship.
Suzanne Alcantara, USC’s Annenberg assistant dean of student affairs and director of career development, helps provide career counseling to USC Annenberg students and has seen the struggles first-hand.
“In some ways, we’re sort of coming out of that really hard part. For me, it was heartbreakingly difficult as the class of 2020 was graduating and jobs and internships had evaporated,” Alcantara said. “And so it was really hard to help students and graduates keep morale up.”
The pandemic has resulted in internship programs switching to an online or hybrid model. Lauren Berger, internship expert and CEO of InternQueen, said that the students have had more opportunities as a result of this transition.
“For a student in Birmingham, Alabama, that, you know, dreams of interning at a company like L.A. and the company is saying, ‘well, we don’t care where you live, it’s virtual,’ like that’s really interesting and in a way, that can conversely affect the USC student, because now, you could argue that it’s a larger competition pool,” Berger said.
As normalcy slowly returns, new opportunities are starting to surface. Alcantara says that the future is hopeful for students in the upcoming semesters.
“It’s certainly coming back to a point where if students are looking for an internship, they would be able to find one,” Alcantara said.
Some students, in fact, found internships this past summer, some virtual and some in-person.
“All of the projects I was assigned had some sort of online or virtual component to it, so even if I was in the office, I would have been behind a computer anyways,” sophomore political science major William Berler said about his virtual role as the special projects intern for California State Senator Henry Stern.
For some students, an in-person work environment would have been more beneficial than a virtual experience.
One student, sophomore real estate development major Webb Hayes, worked two internships this past summer. He had the opportunity of making connections with an in-person internship, as well as gained practical skills from a virtual internship this summer. Hayes described the two experiences as being, “just completely different.”
“The virtual internship feels kind of like a college class with homework assignments,” Hayes added, while in person, “you’re spending your whole day with your coworkers and the people that you’re working for.”
Though Berler admits the work would be the same in a virtual or in-person setting, he said he would still prefer the latter.
“It’s harder to make meaningful connections with people when you’re not with them in person,” Berler said. “I would prefer to be in person where I can put a face to the names I see on the computer screen.”