Pandemic challenges students applying and working for internships, jobs

Protocols created due to COVID-19 make landing a position and meeting colleagues more difficult

Finding an internship or job as a student can be a stressful process, especially if you've never done it before. A pandemic and a crippled economy added into the process make it that much worse.

But, finding opportunities isn't the only challenge that students are facing as a result of the pandemic. Among the obvious challenges COVID-19 has caused for many programs is the difficulty now posed by working remotely, and for some, working in person. 

For those who are first-timers in the internship and job markets, their experiences have been altered by these limitations.

"It was definitely difficult to find a job at the beginning," said Emily Torres, a junior double majoring in transborder Chicanx and Latinx studies and global studies. 

Torres said she applied for 10 jobs at the beginning of March and had given up due to the difficulty of the process.

Her experience was heavily reliant on her reaching out to employers on her own, instead of vice versa, and often had to be persistent, as some weren't looking to hire despite their job postings.

Torres' adjusted approach is one that is now required of students to make good first impressions, according to Toni Rhorer, director of career management at the W.P. Carey School of Business.

"In this new format, there is a record of who attends and who does not," Rhorer said. "So, students must be well-prepared and targeted in their approach and ready to deliver a relevant personal introduction if they want to make an excellent first impression."

That was true for Torres, who eventually found a job posting from Planned Parenthood's Generation Action group at ASU and secured a position there that way.

"It was definitely a different experience since I'm technically working for a campaign and organizing is so hands-on," Torres said. "But it definitely helped me manage my work from home space a lot better than I did before."

However, not all students' internships have moved to virtual modalities. Some, like Samantha Zilmer, a senior studying electrical engineering, are able to attend their internships in person, which comes with its own unique set of difficulties.

"My interview with my boss was over the phone," Zilmer said. "I didn't even meet them in person until my first day of work."

Social distancing guidelines and mask-wearing create barriers that most students never encountered before the pandemic, which hinders their ability to get to know co-workers and integrate oneself into a new work environment. 

"I can't recognize co-workers without masks on," Zilmer said. "And we can't plan get-togethers to get to know one another, so that's been hard for sure."

Although internships and jobs are different in what they entail compared to before the pandemic, students must continue to try to make connections in spite of the new challenges.

"The informal work of getting to know each other's work and preferences as colleagues remains," Rhorer said. 

Many students are in the same boat as Torres and have had trouble finding internships and jobs during the pandemic. 

Rhorer said networking platforms such as LinkedIn or the ASU Mentor Network are great resources for students to use because "students more than ever need to break through all the noise of other applicants to get noticed."


Reach the reporter at skenoun@asu.edu or follow @thesabrinakeno on Twitter.

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