Destiny Malloy ’21 had a sweet internship lined up this summer near New York City, working in data analytics at L’Oreal. After COVID-19, it was converted to unpaid and remote.
Adam Spaulding-Astudillo ’20 was in interviews for a job using his degree in ecology and evolutionary biology, but companies stopped hiring.
Armaan Goyal ’22 had an internship lined up in Manhattan. It also went remote and because he’s living back home in India, visa restrictions won’t allow him to work remotely.
Many students are facing unprecedented challenges finding or keeping positions this summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While some employers are keeping students on their payrolls through remote work, many students are having to rethink their summer and find new projects or positions.
“We are seeing a lot of employers moving to remote internships, changing students’ start dates to begin later and make their internships shorter, or canceling their internships altogether,” said Kay Lewis, a career counselor for the College of Arts & Sciences. “We are reassuring students that it will be OK. They need to be flexible and keep an open mind. There are lots of things they can do that can help them gain skills this summer.”
More than 150 students joined Lewis for a Zoom webinar April 27, “Rethinking Your Summer,” asking questions ranging from “How many people is it okay to contact at a company where I really want to work?” to “How can I make my internship from a small company seem as impressive on my resume as the one from a large company that fell through?”
She offered tips on alternate summer projects such as volunteering or learning a new skill, but also gave students ideas for networking and job searching in this new atmosphere. The College of Arts & Sciences’ career development office has created a special resource page for summer 2020, in light of all of the challenges students are facing.
“Consider your goals for the summer,” Lewis told students during the webinar. “What are some of the skills you were hoping to gain from your summer experience? Can you gain them in another way? Are there any gaps in your resume? Any careers you want to explore? Do you want to gain project management experience? Learn a new language? Learn new computer skills?”
Meg Gordon ’21 is lucky that she still has an internship at a non-profit in New Jersey and although she’ll start out working remotely from home, she hopes she might be in the office later this summer. She’s also taking part in a Cornell summer program, “Practicing Medicine,” which normally includes doctor shadowing experiences and weekly classes in New York City. The program, run by Cornell’s School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions, will be held online this summer.
“When I realized there wouldn’t be a clinical component of the Practicing Medicine course, I wanted to do something additional,” Gordon said about her application to work with Good Grief, an organization helping children and families who are dealing with loss and adversity. She’ll be working 20-30 hours a week, helping with communications and development for the organization.
Gordon, who lost her dad last year, said she can relate to the organization’s mission. “I don’t think grief is something I feel comfortable with, but it’s certainly something I understand,” she said. “I know I can hold my head up and walk through the door at a place like that.”
Gordon, who is majoring in English, plans to attend medical school and focus on surgery or another clinical career. She said she is grateful for both the position and the Practicing Medicine experience.
Malloy is also grateful for continuing her summer position with L’Oreal, though it will be very different.
“They’re offering networking sessions and overviews of data analysis and other topics, but I’m not learning all of the skills I would have learned,” she said. “And it’s not paid.” Malloy, who is majoring in information science and minoring in computer science, said L’Oreal did offer this summer’s interns the chance to return for an in-person internship next summer, which she plans to do.
“A lot of students at Cornell focus on working for tech companies like Facebook or Google, but I think it’s more interesting to find jobs where tech intersects with other industries,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed learning about the beauty industry. Before I was an information science major, I was a chemistry major, so I’m interested in the chemistry behind cosmetics.”
Along with signing up for summer classes and exploring graduate programs, Malloy said she's been exploring courses on LinkedIn Learning and making connections through CU eLinks, two ideas that Lewis suggested during the webinar. CUeLinks is a university-wide online networking platform where students can connect with alumni and resource to achieve academic, career and personal goals.
Since Goyal and his friend, Aaryaman Mishr ’20, both ended up without summer positions, they’re focusing their efforts on creating an online platform to help connect students to internship opportunities at smaller companies.
“Most students aren’t interested in working for small to medium-sized enterprises because the companies don’t have specific internship programs or might not have long-term job opportunities,” Mishr said. “But there are a lot of companies who are looking for help with projects. And they’re looking for interns like Cornell students who are driven and are self-learners.”
Their platform is called PECK (Practical Experience for College Kids) and they’re looking for both students and potential employers to fill out a survey so they can help connect them for summer work. Students can apply here and the employer form is here.
The projects could be long-term or short-term, Goyal said, and the platform allows both students and employers to sort through positions based on the skills and talents they have or are looking for. PECK will also offer students a certification at the end of the summer, something students are looking for in a summer experience, they say.
Spaulding-Astudillo said although his summer plans are still murky, his talks with career counselors “have been the single most helpful and clarifying meetings of my entire Cornell career.”
“I was so uncertain about my path, what I wanted to do and where I would fit in,” he said. “My career advisor helped me recognize my strengths and find comfort in that uncertainty.”
For now, Spaulding-Astudillo is continuing in a research position at Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology, applying for positions and internships with non-profits and thinking more seriously about graduate school.
“I was trying to get some research experience out of college to clarify my interest in grad school,” he said. But now that many of those positions have dried up, he may go to grad school sooner.
Career services offices across campus are still open, offering virtual appointments, holding virtual office hours, and ready to help students develop a summer plan.
“While summer may look different than folks originally expected, there are so many opportunities for professional growth,” Lewis said. “It is a time to be creative and proactive. We encourage students to make an individual appointment — we are here to help folks think through the options and make a plan.”