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Remote Experiences for Current Students

Gaining Experience & Building Skills While Still in School

If you planned to spend the summer interning with an organization, you may be facing down an experience that looks completely different than you thought it would just a few weeks ago.  This may be tough, but with some determination and an open mindset, you can still use this summer to build skills that will make you a stronger candidate in the long run. 

I had an internship lined up, but now I’m not sure what’s going to happen. 

Don’t panic!  Start by contacting the employer.

This is one situation in which it’s better to be proactive.  Rather than waiting to hear from your employer, reach out to the organization where you accepted an internship and ask them about their plans for your position.  You can say something like:

 
Hi Director Fury,

I am reaching out because I am scheduled to begin working with you this summer as an Espionage Intern.  In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, I wanted to make sure you were still planning on moving forward with this internship, either in person or remotely.  I am so excited for the experience, and I really hope we’ll be able to make it work.
 
I know your position must be very demanding right now, and I appreciate you taking the time to confirm my plans for the summer.  If you don’t have a chance to follow up with me by [date rough 3 days-1 week in the future], I will give you a call.
 
Stay safe, and please let me know if there is anything you need from me.

Thanks,

Natasha Romanov
 

Additional Resources for How to Handle Newly Uncertain Internships:

I heard back: my employer wants me to work remotely.  What comes next?

That’s great!  While the exact shape of the internship will differ, working a previously in-person internship remotely allows you to still gain relevant experience in your desired field while also learning what it’s like to collaborate with a team from a distance.  To set yourself up for success, make sure you speak with your supervisor to get a sense of what kind of communication they’ll be looking for from you.
 

Additional Resources to Help Make Your Remote Work a Success

I heard back: my internship was canceled.  What should I do now?!

First thing’s first: this is really hard news to get.  Allow yourself to be sad about it.
 

Importantly: don’t ghost your employer!  Let them know that, even though you’re disappointed you won’t be working with them right now, you understand their decision.  And take this chance to ask them whether it’s possible to honor your internship in a future summer or semester instead.  The answer may be no, but it’s perfectly acceptable to ask.
 

While it would be great to find a paid opportunity in your desired field to replace the internship that was canceled – and you should definitely continue looking for those types of positions – the reality is that you may need to expand your search to include other types of opportunities, as well. 

I really need to work. How can I find out what kind of jobs are available?

Search for jobs classified as essential with robust telework systems in place.

If it’s imperative that you earn some income during this time, jobs classified as essential and jobs in industries that already have robust telework systems in place are good places to start (such as health care, software, shipping and delivery, e-commerce, online education and training, grocery retail, and customer service).  If you have skills or training that transfer to these industries, you may be in a good position to find work.  And remember – even if the job you find isn’t in your immediate field, you will still be learning and gaining skills that can be useful across the board. 

Search for internship opportunities.

Companies also continue to use major job search sites to list internship opportunities, both paid and unpaid, on a daily basis.  Depending on what you’re looking for, you can search by internship, part-time employment, or other criteria.

  • HireJayhawks (job database for KU students and graduates) 
  • Idealist.org (job database focused on public service opportunities) 
  • VirtualInternships (for-fee website that connects students to remote internships worldwide) 

Micro-internships are another way to earn income remotely.  Rather than a single summer-long internship, consider looking for multiple project-based micro-internships, which will allow you to continue building your skills and connect you to multiple companies/organizations.

  • Parker Dewey (micro-internships for recent graduates and current students) 
  • UpWork (site for freelancers)

It would be great to spend this time giving back. Where can I look for volunteering opportunities?

Search for volunteer opportunities.

If you’re in a position to spend your time volunteering, there are numerous opportunities available across a variety of fields. 

  • If you’d like to gain more content-area knowledge, try contacting professors at KU who work in the area that interests you to see if they have any need for volunteer research assistants to help them with new or ongoing projects. 
  • If you’d like to support a cause that you care about, try reaching out directly to a nonprofit or other organization that does work in that space and offer your time; make sure you let them know about any specialized skills you have that might make you a good fit for certain kinds of positions.  One great resource is Nonprofit Connect, a website that specializes in nonprofits in the greater Kansas City area.
     

Additional Ways to Find Volunteer Opportunities

And don’t forget that you can volunteer outside an organization, too!  If you’ve got a skill, the chances are high that you can use it to do some good right now.  (Delivering groceries, creating masks for healthcare workers and individuals, or walking dogs for at-risk neighbors are all ways to make a difference during this tough time.)

I want to make sure I’m using this summer productively, even if I’m not working or volunteering outside my home. What are some ways to keep learning about my field?

This is great time to practice your networking skills!

Taking the time to build relationships with your future colleagues is a crucial part of the job search process.  Networking helps you get to know people with similar career interests and grows your knowledge of the field by letting you learn what it’s like from someone actually doing the work. 

  • UCC Job Search Presentation (video with tips about how to conduct networking as part of the job search process)
  • KU Mentoring (KU Alumni Association's platform to connect with KU alumni mentors, all of whom have already agreed to be contacted)
  • LinkedIn Alumni Tool (research KU alumni by locations, majors, keywords, skills, or type of work; connect with KU alumni)
Create or polish your professional online presence.

77% of employers say they either currently research or will soon start researching job candidates via social media.  If you haven’t yet created a LinkedIn profile (or if yours is significantly out of date), now is the time to update your online presence so that you’ll have control of what employers see in the future. 

Depending on your field, it may also make sense to create an online portfolio or personal website, or to create a Twitter account that you use to follow major players in your area of interest and to engage with them. 

Take online courses to build your content knowledge and technical skill sets.

There are thousands of free online courses that will allow you to build skills you can use in all kinds of professional settings.  Whether you want to pick up a new language, learn basic coding, take a public speaking course, or practice an instrument, the chances are good that you can find an online forum that will allow you to develop your skillset remotely.


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