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Students finding creative ways to retool summer plans

Destiny Malloy ’21 had a dream internship lined up this summer near New York City, working in data analytics at L’Oreal. But the coronavirus hit, and it was converted to unpaid and remote.

Armaan Goyal ’22’s Manhattan-based internship went remote – but because he’s back home in India, visa restrictions won’t allow him to work.

Destiny Malloy

These students and many others 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 must rethink their summer plans and find new projects or positions.

Armaan Goyal

“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 and 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.”

Meg Gordon

More than 150 students joined Lewis in late April for a Zoom webinar, “Rethinking Your Summer,” asking questions ranging from “How many people is it OK 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 new skills, but also gave students ideas for networking and job searching in this new atmosphere. The college’s career development office has created a special resource page for summer 2020, to address 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?”

Meg Gordon ’21 is taking part in a Cornell summer program, “Practicing Medicine,” which normally includes shadowing doctors and attending 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,” said Gordon, an English major who hopes to attend medical school.

She applied to work with Good Grief, an organization helping children and families dealing with loss and adversity. She’ll be working 20-30 hours a week, helping with communications and development for the organization.

Gordon, whose father died 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.”

Malloy, who’s majoring in information science and minoring in computer science, 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.

Since Goyal and his friend, Aaryaman Mishr ’20, both ended up without summer positions, they’re focusing their efforts on creating an online platform called PECK (Practical Experience for College Kids) to help connect students to micro-internship opportunities at smaller companies.

Career services offices across campus are still open, Lewis said, offering virtual appointments and virtual office hours 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 students think through their options and make a plan.”

Read the full version of this story on the Arts and Sciences website.

Kathy Hovis is a writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.

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Abby Butler