Internships, work experience and the coronavirus

We are in strange and unprecedented times. In the summer months, TARGETjobs would usually be advising you on getting informal work experience through speculative applications. Instead, we wanted to answer your questions about what happens if an internship is cancelled due to the social distancing measures in place to fight the pandemic, whether it will harm your future job prospects if you don’t get relevant experience and what you can do while staying at home.

Are internships, placements or vac schemes being cancelled?

Many law firms did postpone their vac schemes and open days (Easter is a key time in their recruitment cycle and they had to make decisions quickly), we heard that some investment banks took an early decision to cancel summer internships and we think that it is probable that many employers will either cancel or postpone internships in the coming weeks unless circumstances change. To state the obvious, it is much harder for an untrained intern to work from home than a permanent employee and one of the benefits of doing an internship is that you get a feel for the workplace and working environment.

What to do if you internship, placement or vac scheme is cancelled?

If you have been offered an internship or are part-way through the recruitment process and there is going to be a change, you should be informed about the decision (probably via email, so make sure to check your spam folders). It is likely that the employer will let you know of plans to run their work experience schemes at another time or perhaps even fast-track you through their graduate recruitment process for the following year.

If you haven’t heard anything, it is definitely OK to contact the employer to ask if they have made any decisions yet. However, as we explain in our article on job hunting during the coronavirus pandemic, you may need to be patient. Employers might be waiting to see how things develop before making a final decision or communication may be delayed as employees get used to home working.

What if you don’t get any work experience?

Our advice is not to worry overly about this. It would be an unusual and unreasonable employer that would not, when considering your future graduate job application, take into account the difficulties of undertaking an internship at this time.

Don’t be concerned about a 'gap' appearing on your CV. Not having a job or internship during your studies does not constitute an ‘unusual’ gap that you need to explain and it is important to remember that an employer considers your application holistically; they don't just look for work experience.

Ultimately, they seek evidence that you would make a good employee (that is, someone interested in the sector and who has desirable skills and qualities, such as the ability to be proactive and a willingness to take on responsibility).

That evidence does not have to come from an internship in a related sector. There are things you can do to develop further skills and knowledge from home. Remember, too, that any previous part-time jobs or involvement in student societies will provide examples of your skills.

What are the alternatives to getting an internship?

The most important thing right now is to take care of your own physical and mental health and to minimise the risks to those around you, particularly if you or they are in a vulnerable group. That definitely takes priority over enhancing your CV or future career prospects. However, there are some things you can do to build up evidence of interest in your chosen sector and to develop some employer-friendly skills while at home, if you have a mind to. Many mental health charities say having a structure to your day is helpful, so you could consider adding some of the below activities to your day. For example:

Follow the news and employers in your sector of choice

Being able to talk informedly at interview or assessment day about what is happening in your chosen sector or industry is one of the best ways to show enthusiasm for the sector.

Follow the social media accounts of employers and professional bodies and read the industry press. Then think through what the implications of that news might be for the sector as a whole and for the employer. Many industry press news organisations (including in the construction industry) are giving sector-specific updates on the impact of the coronavirus and you can also gain insights into how different employers are responding from their social media accounts: for example, some City law firms are publishing blogs aimed at their clients and which provide advice on business continuity.

Scroll to the bottom of this page to access TARGETjobs’ main social media channels. If you click across to our sector Twitter feeds (@tjobsbuilding, @tjobsconsult, @tjobsfinance, @tjobseng_tech, @tjobslaw and @tjobsmarketing) you can also gain industry-specific updates and advice.

Mental health organisations also recommend you to limit your exposure to news however (especially if you find it triggers further anxiety), so maybe look at news updates for a specific, short period of time.

Make the most of LinkedIn

With many professionals working from home, this could be a good time to catch their attention. You could try to connect with them on LinkedIn to ask for any career tips. You never know: if you build up a good relationship with them, they may be able to recommend you for any work experience opportunities in future or even have you work-shadow them when things return to normal.

Read our advice on how to make your LinkedIn profile as good as it can be.

Use your careers service remotely

Many careers advisers are still providing help and advice to students, for example by reviewing CVs and LinkedIn profiles digitally and having phone consultations. So, you can still get advice on improving your CV/LinkedIn profile from home. You can also see whether you could access any mentoring schemes – many university careers services have schemes set up with alumni, in which you make contact over the phone and via email.

Use moocs to develop skills and knowledge

There are tonnes of both free and paid-for massively open online courses (moocs) covering all sorts of different topics and skills. If you have had a hankering to learn more about a subject or even a new language, now is the time to pursue it. If you go on to Coursera or similar, you will also find moocs run by employers on different business topics, such as PwC’s introduction to data analysis and presentation skills.

When you complete these, write about them on your CV (you can add them to your ‘Education’ section along with the dates you took them). This will illustrate that you have been using your time at home constructively and, if you are applying to the employer running the course, it can also help to evidence your interest in the employer.

More career activities you can do while social distancing.

What about part-time jobs and volunteering to help the vulnerable?

At the moment, many retailers require extra staff (either to work on the shop floor in the case of food retailers or to deliver items ordered online). There have also been calls for fruit pickers and similar. These sorts of part-time jobs can give you lots of transferable skills that employers love, but we would only recommend you take up a role if it is safe for you to do so without endangering yourself or others around you.

Ten skills you can get from a part-time retail job.

Ten skills you can get from a delivery and courier job.

Similarly, there are currently lots of volunteering efforts going on to help the most vulnerable. As well as home-grown initiatives in the local community, the NHS is calling for volunteers to help the most vulnerable – you just need to be over 18 and have no symptoms (those in the more vulnerable groups can provide phone support). Leaving the house to help the vulnerable is permitted under government rules. Volunteering could be a great addition to your CV and help you to develop employability skills such as flexibility and adaptability – but, again, we would only recommend volunteering outside of the house if it is a safe action for you to take. (You can volunteer digitally.)

Take care of you and those around you

If you are mid-degree and concerned about your job or work experience prospects, rest assured that it is OK to put any career thoughts on the backburner and to take some time out and to relax when you can. It is an uncertain time right now and our advice is to focus on what is most important: the wellbeing of you and your loved ones.

We will update this feature with new information and advice as it becomes available.

Source information

  TARGETjobs is a jobs and advice site for students and graduates.