Internships on the decline: Coronavirus hits student job market


Via Ad Meskens | Wikimedia Commons

Many students’ internship opportunities have been cancelled due to the coronavirus.

By Rebecca Johnson, Senior Staff Writer

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Advertisements for internships on ZipRecruiter fell more than 30% in the month of March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Business Insider.

This has left many students like Dylan Sloat, a junior political science and economics major at Pitt, in a state of limbo. Sloat applied to seven congressional internships on Capitol Hill, and is now worried about his career prospects after many were cancelled. 

“My goal is to work in D.C. or in federal policy after graduation so this summer was going to be a big chance for me to meet a lot of people and set myself up in a good place to apply after graduation,” Sloat said. “Without it, it kind of sets me back.”

As the effects of the coronavirus pandemic struck nationwide, workplaces cancelled or postponed summer internships accordingly, leaving many Pitt students without the summer opportunities that are often crucial to career development. 

Pitt’s on-campus internships are also postponed until the campus re-opens. Alyson Kavalukas, internship coordinator at the Career Center, said via email that even though the official timeline is set by the administration, students should remain in contact with their supervisors for more guidance.

“Students who anticipated an internship or research position on campus this summer should remain in contact with their supervisors and offer to work remotely if that is an option,” Kavalukas said. 

For students seeking more help, Kavalukas said the Career Center is still open virtually to help students in this uncertain job market. Students can schedule appointments on Handshake for resumé reviews, career counseling and internship appointments. Students can also submit resumés for review directly to [email protected]

Kavalukas added that students should now “think outside the box” for alternatives to building their resume beyond traditional internships.

“Take LinkedIn Learning courses, which are free to all Pitt students,” Kavalukas said. “Gather a team of classmates from your major and offer the team’s support to a local non-profit. Start a blog or offer to develop web content for your neighbor’s new start up business.” 

Kavalukas said she believes employers will value students who spent this time productively.

“While you aren’t likely to receive the desired training or supervision that you would get from an internship, you are showing initiative and building skills in the process,” Kavalukas said. 

Some students say that because internship programs were cancelled so abruptly, they weren’t able to plan for a productive summer. One of these students is Michelle Furmansky, a first-year finance and political science major, who had planned on interning for an immigration law firm for eight weeks with Onward Israel. Furmansky said she felt somewhat relieved when her program was cancelled a week ago because she had closure, but she wishes she would have known sooner.

“Everything else was getting cancelled and I still hadn’t heard from them,” Furmansky said. “I felt like I couldn’t make any new plans or figure out a new game plan for myself until I knew that it was cancelled.”

Sloat also said that while he is sympathetic to congressional offices, it would make it easier to plan if they were more transparent in their decisions. 

“I know it’s confusing for offices too, but it’s extremely uncertain and then when you do hear it’s still kind of vague,” Sloat said. “I would have to go to D.C. and travel and move in, so I need advanced warning.” 

Sloat added that he hopes potential employers are more sympathetic to students’ lack of work experience during this unusual time.

“I hope the people can at least sympathize that people lost out on opportunities to kind of gain the experience that normal four-year students would without this hiccup in the middle,” Sloat said. “People are dealing with backlash and individual interruptions.”

Other students aren’t as certain that companies and graduate schools will be as lenient, at least in the long term. Furmansky said she thinks the leniency will quickly fade by the time she starts applying. 

“I think they will be lenient for the next year or two, but by the time I enter the job market that sympathy will also be over,” Furmansky said. 

Kavalukas said the reality is more complicated. She said she thinks employers will likely be more empathetic to applicants, but will still have high standards for potential employees.

“I am certain that many employers will be understanding of gaps in a resumé due to the pandemic,” Kavalukas said. “But, employers will still have high expectations for candidates to have strong skill sets, like communication, leadership and problem solving.” 

Beyond a resumé, Furmansky said losing her internship will also impact her decision about what career to pursue throughout the rest of college. 

“I was going to use it as a benchmark on whether I wanted to set my sights on law school,” Furmansky said. “Now that I don’t have that experience I’m still kind of on the fence, and I’m missing out on a chance to be abroad and have an internship.”

Sloat said amidst the uncertainty, he hopes the Pitt community can support each other.

“I feel like a lot of people are going through uncertainty right now, so hopefully other students can feel some sort of solidarity in the uncertainty,” Sloat said. “We’re all going through similar things, just in different parts of the world.”