It's not you, it's the pandemic
Updated: May 18
Many students are dealing with internship cancellations, hiring freezes and rescinded offers. Review the latest in hiring data and learn how to respond when COVID-19 impacts you.
First things first: Take time to reflect
The corona virus has disrupted our entire way of living, and that includes many internships and job plans for students. The first thing to consider when you are turned away from an opportunity: it's not you, it's the result of the pandemic. No matter how your internship or job was affected, it's likely not personal. It's hard to feel like a canceled internship program, a closed job position or a hiring freeze isn’t a slap in the face. But the reality is that employers are also adjusting to and evaluating the effects the pandemic has had on their industry and business.
It may be helpful to also consider that you are not alone. Many students, at Lehigh and across the country, are facing the same hiring and internship search challenges. Talk to someone else experiencing a similar situation. Reach out to a friend to vent, connect on social media with other students who have received the same bad news, or email classmates. You’re not alone in processing your emotional response to the situation, and the Career Center wants to help. We are called “Career Coaches” because we want to talk about how you are feeling just as much as help you design your next steps. In a lot of ways, we are discussing loss and that has a significant emotional impact. You have lost life on campus, time with friends and classmates, internship options, and study abroad plans. It's normal to struggle with this type of loss and the pandemic has significant consequences for students.
Handling a renege
You had an internship offer or an interview date. Plans were set, meetings were scheduled, you celebrated your success. And then the pandemic started, which led to your employer pulling the plug on everything you thought was final. The dictionary defines “reneging” as going back on your word, renouncing, or breaking a rule of play. Anyway you say it, reneging is hard on everyone. Feelings of frustration, anger, grief, or stress may follow and all are normal responses to the disappointment you face when your internship or job offer disappears.
Follow up with the employer with a positive tone. While you may have a lot of feelings about their reneged offer, keep in mind the pandemic has caused many things to change (that an employer may not be able to control) and as previously mentioned, it's not personal. I can almost guarantee no employer wants to go back on an employment agreement, but many industries are facing challenges, lost profits, furloughs, or layoffs, and adjusting the way they do business as a result of the pandemic. How you respond to their renege may impact a future outcome for you.
Dear Employer name,
I was eager to start working with (company name) and looking forward to gaining experience with your team. If possible, instead of canceling the opportunity could we delay the start date? I can be available anytime this spring or summer to begin your on-boarding process. In addition, I can offer flexibility with my work location and I am willing to find ways to offer my assistance with remote projects or work until we are able to return to the office. If neither of those suggestions are feasible, please know I remain highly interested in working as a (job title) and would love a referral to other internship/job opportunities you can share or consideration for future employment with your organization. The pandemic has certainly impacted everyone’s personal and professional lives, but it has also taught me to be resilient and adaptable. I would appreciate staying in touch, especially as things continue to evolve.
3 ways to shape PLAN B
Circle back to your internship search process. Start by reviewing the steps outlined here by the Career Center. Heading back to the Handshake job board and checking in with the Lehigh Connects network are good places to identify additional internship options. You can also find some great advice from a wide range of Career Services Professionals and Employers on LinkedIn in the post “Getting the Class of 2020 Employed”.
Consider making changes in your career plan and identify what transferable skills can you leverage. Many industries have been impacted by the pandemic, you may have to consider other avenues until the economy rebounds or the situation changes.
Evaluate other options outside of an internship. This can include skill development, remote research or work options, online coursework, or building your digital portfolio/website.
Don’t ask, pitch
Networking should stay firmly in your weekly schedule as you start looking for other summer opportunities, and this includes maintaining relationships with managers or faculty researchers you have worked with in the past. Make a pitch to a previous employer about working there again, since you have the advantage of experience and company knowledge on your side. One of the hardest parts about hiring new employees is the training process, which can be very difficult to manage while working remotely. However, if you reach out to a manager you have worked for in the past, it will be much easier to bring you on board again as you understand the company culture and workflow. Be sure to clearly communicate what you can offer, your availability, and sincere interest in working there again.
Dear Manager name,
I am hoping you are doing well considering the impact the pandemic has had in our area recently. I am reaching out because I enjoyed working for (company name) last summer and I would love to return to your team again. As you may remember, I am studying (major) at Lehigh and since my internship with you ended in August 2019 I have completed X class and also improved my skills with Y and Z. In combination with my experience working for you as (previous job title), I am more equipped than ever to make contributions to your organization. In addition, I have been completing my coursework online and have become adept at working remotely. I will complete my semester on May 18, and remain flexible to start working remotely or will be available for in person hours as soon as the social distancing recommendations are lifted. Do you have some time this week to talk more? I would love to share my updated resume and discuss any projects or positions that I could contribute to.
Companies are hiring
All hope is not lost, in fact NACE data tells us that 64% of employers have no plans to revoke offers and many employers are still hosting internships which is made possible by making some changes to their programs like delayed start dates or moving to remote work. And while some industries are at a disadvantage considering the pandemic, other industries are growing in response. Glassdoor has identified 60 companies that are hiring, and their research in March showed several areas of job growth in response to the coronavirus. Get hired newsletter also has dozens of companies listed that are hiring.
Invest in what will pay off later
It may seem all doom and gloom now. However, without intending to discredit some very real and very big feelings you may be having, there are steps you can take now that will help prepare you for when the economy recovers.
Remain positive when interacting with employers
Be open to moving to plan b, c, d...
Invest time in networking. If they can’t hire now, they may hire in the future.
Stay in touch with employers, even if you hear no to your application. Ask if you can follow up in a month to see how/if things have changed.
Leverage transferable skills when switching industries
Demonstrate your flexibility and problem solving skills by adapting to online/virtual work options
Get help from the Career Center
If your job or internship offer has been reneged, please reach out to the Career Center for assistance.
Handshake resource page: COVID-19 Resources
Hire Lehigh blog: Working virtually with the Career Center
Career Lab: Hours vary, visit the Handshake Events tab for the zoom link
Schedule a 1-on-1 Career Coaching appointment on Handshake