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Students share their biggest concerns during COVID-19

Updated: May 18, 2021

As featured on the Lehigh Career Center instagram page, we started a conversation and asked alumni and recruiters to respond to the questions that many students are asking. Read their advice and encouragement to combat your fears and frustrations with how COVID-19 is impacting on your career plans.

How will it affect my future job search if I am unable to find an internship this summer?

Many students are facing this situation nationwide, so it still creates a somewhat even playing field. It's more important to have any type of related experience on your resume (not just a summer internship) so begin looking for other ways to build experience before your full-time job search begins. This could include finding an internship or part-time position during the fall or spring semester, working on a research project with a faculty member, joining a club or organization on campus related to your industry, volunteering, completing class projects, arranging job shadowing, and many other options. Consider building skills relevant to your industry (use your intel from networking) to figure out the in demand skills and look to opportunities to learn them this summer. Check out sites like udemy, coursera, openculture, and edX for free to inexpensive classes on a wide variety of skills. There are lots of ways to grow your resume and prepare for your career in addition to a traditional internship.

Jamie Flinchbaugh, Business Advisor and Consultant and 1994 Lehigh alumni, shared ”This summer, the difference between having an internship and not having one won't reflect your ability or effort. Future employers will understand that there are special causes. But job searches are still about differentiating yourself and demonstrating your talent and traits. So find a project where you can demonstrate what makes you special. Start a podcast, a vlog, do a research project, build something, get a professional development certificate. Do something with the time.

Mary Cottingham, Environmental Data Systems Manager for Ramboll and 1990 Lehigh alumni, said “I work for an engineering consultancy. One of the biggest things my team looks for are folks who have had a job or other experience which demonstrates TEAMWORK, not necessarily technical application of your major. Whatever you do, do it with excellence... and don't forget to ask for a reference at the end of the summer.”

Torcon, Construction company in Philadelphia, replied “The anxiety students may feel about missed internship opportunities is completely understood, and we would like to say that we hope they can find some reassurance in knowing that while I only speak for our company, we are certain a number of other employers will agree these missed opportunities will not be in any way held against the students. As Sir Winston Churchill said, "A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." Communities around the world need our help, and it could be your time to distinguish yourself. If students can find the time to volunteer, even if it is remotely, in our opinion it would show a student's true character. Reach out to those in need and know that helping others can more than make up for a missing internship on a resume.”

Jay Anhorn, COO for Alpha Chi Rho Educational Foundation, 1995 Lehigh Alumni, answered “Reframe this summer as an opportunity to do some positive volunteer or advocacy work online. Create virtual communities to discuss issues relevant to your passion. Just do something - show initiative and be creative. All employers understand what is happening now and will be looking for what you did during these times. Have something to show for it. Big or small.”

Curt Schmidt, Environmental Geologist with H2M and 1976 Lehigh alumni shared “This summer may be viewed as a “hiccup!” Keep trying for an internship or a job where you can learn something to demonstrate your desire to learn and adjust to the new Normal. Conduct online research on your own time. Volunteer at a Non-Profit that engages you. Show that you are moving forward, and not letting this quarantine slow your progress.”

My Industry is unable to support remote work. What other options do I have?

It's time to focus on developing plan B which could include skill development, online summer classes, informational interviews, building a website or github, independent study, and many others. You can still use your time wisely this summer, by exploring some of the alternative ways to build skills and experience shared on the Handshake resource page, Covid-19 tile.

  • Check out free (or inexpensive) online learning on udemy, coursera, edX

  • Take a LinkedIn learning course

  • Learn a new foriegn language on Open language

  • Find tutoring jobs and volunteer positions

  • Work remotely for a startup by browsing Angel’s list

  • Remote internships with Paragon One and Parker Dewey.

Torcon, Construction company in Philadelphia, explained “We understand this predicament because we live it every day. It's impossible to build buildings without boots on the ground, no near-term solutions to that problem. However, there is a ton (actually several thousand digitally represented tons) of engineering that goes into every project. We are always looking for BIM (building information modeling) talent to add to our team. Those classes are definitely a good fit for virtual learning. I bet Lehigh has the ability to offer BIM and CAD classes online to help add to your quiver of tools. Ask around and see what's out there, companies like @autodesk and @autodeskrevit have the tools, see if you can master them this summer.”

Ethan Spielholz, Consolidation Manager at Integra LifeSciences and 2014 Lehigh alumni, shared “Given the current situation and circumstances, still continue to pursue whatever your original goal is for the summer, like an internship, part-time job, etc. However, I agree with everything stated in this post and these are great ideas. Have a plan B. Failing to plan is a planning to fail. Take advantage of this time. Complete some summer courses to get ahead. If your future industry or job uses a certain computer program or application (i.e. excel, python, CAD, etc.), teach yourself to master it; you will be an invaluable asset to a team for having this expertise. Next week/year, when an interviewer asks, how you spent your summer, show them you took the initiative to be productive and prepared yourself to be an immediate contributor to your future colleagues. Feel free to reach out on LinkedIn.”

Shared by Andrew Lascar, Sales at Cogent Communications and 2004 Lehigh alumni, “I recommend students who can't get internships join the fight against Covid and become a teleworker to help fellow Americans. I'm sure future employers will see this as valuable service. Please go to the Volunteer Surge website and watch their first two videos to get acquainted with them.”

How can anyone help? No one is hiring.

It’s normal to feel discouraged or defeated if you have not had progress with your job or internship search in the last few weeks, but this is not time to give up. Now is the time to focus on networking. Build a list of questions that allows you to collect information about when/if specific companies or industries will begin to interview and hire again. Start on Lehigh Connects to tap into the hidden job market, not all positions are posted. Focus on conducting informational interviews with an approach that asks for advice and information, many people you talk to aren’t hiring managers but can provide insight into their company’s hiring practices or personnel. Learn about career paths, pivot to industries that are hiring and gather intel that puts you at an advantage during your search. Ask for resume feedback, practice your interview skills, request referrals and stay in touch over the next several weeks to gather new information as things evolve. Your job search may look different than you thought, but there are job options and you can move forward with your job search if you know how to adapt. Advice from the Lehigh alumni network can help.

Alex Holz, Senior Product Specialist at YouTube and 2003 Lehigh alumni, responded “When many industries are in crisis/survival mode, new ones blossom and take shape. Obstacles become opportunities. Live concert business gone away? Musicians shift to live streaming. Movie theaters no longer selling tickets? Video on demand gets a boost. As a result, there is always an opportunity taking shape and new personnel needed to fill the gaps.”

John McCawley, Director for PECO/Exelon and 1984 Lehigh alumni, explained “Search Exelon Careers. Good companies are always on the lookout for good people. They are in it for the long run. Get in on a job, then pursue the job you want from the inside.”

Roy Marcantonio answered “Many of us in the class of '63 chose military service after graduation. My own experience as a US Navy Officer for three years was life changing. I hope that some of the current students consider it or some other service to their country upon graduation.”

Many of my internship applications are on pause. When could I expect things to resume again?

Understanding timelines is going to be complex, but the first place to start is researching your state’s plan for lifting social distancing and stay at home orders. Some businesses will begin to resume normal work in the next few weeks, others may be further delayed or not focus on hiring as soon as they reopen. Be flexible, not all states will respond the same way as the country opens. Since half of March and most of April were on pause for a lot of organizations, that same 6-8 week delay may affect interviews and job offer timelines pushing into June, July or August. You can also expect that some organizations may choose to completely cancel intern programs or remain under hiring freezes through the summer/fall. It’s OK to reach out to ask about an application, but be prepared that many may not have distinct plans or answers just yet.

We invite alumni and recruiters to comment with their advice and information.

To better understand how employers are responding to hiring, you can see the latest data from the NACE survey here.

How can I find remote work?

Check the Handshake resource page, Remote Internships tile to point you to many remote job options, including Parker Dewey and Paragon one. When applying be prepared to showcase your skills and how they translate in a remote working environment. Be sure to demonstrate your ability to use technical tools, work on teams, professionally communicate, and complete projects by their assigned deadlines. Share your comfort level with organizing your work, managing your tasks, and functioning independently to accomplish projects while also staying connected to colleagues who may help or share in the responsibilities for the work. Most of all, articulate confidence in your ability to enter this new environment and be successful. Jump on the application process, many deadlines are in early May!

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