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Career Corner: Salvaging the Summer

A watch party was held at JPL for an ISS downlink with NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold. – Photo courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lyle Tavernie

If you’re in the middle of your college education, this pandemic could not come at a worse time. You’re trying to build up your resume to give you a chance of getting a job after graduation. And, you’re going to need one with all of those student loans you’ll have to pay back. One way to do this is often through summer internships. But, the number of internships that have been cut is astonishing.

When I was in college, I had the opportunity to have four internships. The first two were with General Motors. Then, I had one with Westinghouse and one with the Boys and Girls Clubs. Each one gave me experience and set me apart from my peers. But in graduate school, I was less lucky. I studied for my MBA during a time when the job market wasn’t great. There weren’t as many internships available — and the ones that were often expected you to work for free. So, I ended up not doing an internship during my MBA studies.

What are you to do if you have found yourself without an internship this summer?

Look for other ways to stand out. What else can you do with your summer that could be included on your resume? For example, are there opportunities to tutor other students online? Could you take additional courses? Perhaps you could volunteer to help a professor at your school with some of their research. Maybe you could teach yourself how to use a new kind of software.

Perhaps you could volunteer to be an intern for a company. This idea may work in situations where the company can’t afford to hire you, but is open to your help. I know this isn’t an option for everyone, but if it is, consider it.

Any of the ideas above will give you something that you can include on your resume. Speaking of your resume, this is the perfect time to work on yours. There are lots of tutorials online about how to craft a resume. And, while you’re at it, set up your LinkedIn profile.

Beyond this, another tactic I love is called informational interviewing. Informational interviews aren’t job interviews. They’re networking meetings that allow you to chat with a professional about the work they do. For example, if you’re studying computer programming, you might reach out to someone who is a computer scientist and ask them if they are willing to chat with you about their job. Many companies have slowed down, so there are some professionals who have extra time right now.

Whatever you do, try to keep your head up. I know this is tough. When I graduated with a computer engineering degree, the dot com crash had just happened. I thought things would never get better. But, keep pushing ahead. Someday things will improve and you want to put yourself in the best position to succeed then.

Angela Copeland, a career expert and founder of Copeland Coaching, can be reached at

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