Securing a summer internship is not an easy task.  It often takes months of tedious searching, applying, and interviewing to finally land an internship that will likely impact your future career.  With the current state of our country and the ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic, the last thing internship-hungry college students across the nation want to hear was that their dream summer internship has been canceled.  

Like many of you, I spent the last six months of my life hoping to ensure a spot in an incredible internship program this summer.  Unfortunately, all of the options I had worked towards were either canceled, limited, or postponed indefinitely because of COVID-19.  Although I was extremely disappointed and frustrated, I noticed that many other college women were in the same boat.  

I think it’s important that we find a way to move past the pandemic-shaped road bump this summer and continue to grow as career-driven women. Showing a future employer that you used your frustration to fuel professional success this summer will certainly increase your hirability in future internships and job interviews.  

The following list is a culmination of COVID-19 driven strategies to help you grow professionally after falling victim to a cancelled summer internship.  I recommend combining a few of the points to boost your resume, keep you motivated, and seize your summer.

Initiate your own internship

Even though your internship was canceled, you were still hired for a reason.  Market the skills you used to secure your first internship to initiate a new internship in your community.  Writing a persuasive and respectful email about why your skills would be an asset to a local company, organization, or politician is a great way to make lemonade out of lemons.  Convince the business that you would be an asset to their team by finding a problem and offering a solution.  If they are having a hard time bringing in young people, offer your youthful voice as a solution.  If their social media needs an upgrade, explain how you can help create their successful digital platform.

Take a free onlinecourse

Learning a new skill or mastering a new topic is a great way to build your portfolio this summer.  If you have put off learning a certain software skill or you have an intense interest in a subject not covered in your major, this is the perfect professional growth strategy for you.  Prestigious universities, such as Harvard and MIT, and reliable learning sites, such as Duolingo and Khan Academy, are offering free online classes. By perfecting a new skill, learning a new language, or improving your academic expertise, your resume will receive the boost it needs to help you secure an impressive future job or internship.

Pursue a new connection or shadowing opportunity

Part of achieving your ideal career path is learning from professionals who have already succeeded in your field.  Use LinkedIn to reach out to the successful individuals in your area that you would love to learn from.  Simply connecting with a new professional on LinkedIn or reaching out to a past connection can improve your understanding of what it takes to thrive in your profession.  Networking during your COVID-19 downtime is an essential way to grow your circle and clarify your reason for pursuing a certain career path.  Who knows, you potentially may find your next internship opportunity as well.

Give back to the community that raised you

Many of us have returned to our hometowns during the COVID-19 pandemic and have been stuck inside our childhood home for two months straight.  With a canceled summer internship and boredom setting in, one impactful way to use your free time is volunteering.  Non-profit organizations are struggling more than ever during this difficult time and could use the help of your youthful hands.  Contact food pantries, childcare centers, and local charities to ask how you can be of assistance during this challenging time.  

Save for the future

As much as we may have wanted to avoid this situation, working a traditional summer job to save money may be the perfect way to succeed professionally in the future.  Although you were expecting a different outcome this summer, making money and setting it aside to help pay for future internship housing, an advanced degree program you may want to pursue, or a handful of other opportunities is an impressive way to use your COVID-19 time to the fullest.  Pro tip: during this time, delivery drivers are making substantial amounts of money!

Search for a remote internship

Even if it is not exactly what you had planned for the summer, depending on your graduation date and career aspirations, having some sort of remote internship may be better than no internship.  Using sites like Handshake or LinkedIn and searching “remote” will help you find thousands of opportunities across the country.  The Parker Dewey platform also offers a number of “micro-internships” that can be completed from anywhere between a few days to a few hours.  With either a remote or micro-internship, you can incorporate the skills you gained from the experience to grow your resume and build connections.  

Study for the LSAT/ GRE/ MCAT

One positive of the pandemic (yes, there are a few) is the additional time you have to prepare for your future academic goals.  If you are like me and stressed about finding the time to study for a future, life-changing exam, this is the perfect opportunity.  With more free space in your schedule than many of us have experienced in a long time, establishing a consistent study schedule and using COVID-19 as a launchpad for crushing your admissions test is a no brainer.  Improving your score with the additional time you have been gifted is a great way to set your professional future on the right track.

Prepare for a fall internship

Whether it be to have more time in the fall or the chance to defer for a semester, taking classes this summer will decrease your credit load and increase your free time in future semesters.  It may be a strategic professional move to take a full credit load this summer so that your fall semester is free to find an even better internship.  Typically, fall internships are less competitive than summer internships, meaning you would have a greater chance of securing a position.  Not to mention, we have all become professionals at online classes over the last few months.  Putting those skills to use for the summer is a fantastic way to set yourself up for future professional growth and prepare for fall internship success.

Find a community business problem and solve it

My internship advisor last summer explained to me that every business has a problem, and to be successful in the world, you have to learn what role you can play in solving those problems.  During a time of complete uncertainty for many businesses, you can use your skills to solve their COVID-19 related problems and grow your professional skills portfolio.  I encourage you to reach out to local businesses you love and ask how you can aid their recovery during this difficult time.  If you are especially savvy at website design, finance, or a variety of other skills, offer your time to help a struggling small business.  Not only will you assist in their survival, but you will also grow in real-life use of your professional skills.   

Write Articles for Future Female Leaders

A fun way to turn your passions into professional practice is by writing an article for Future Female Leaders.  

Olivia C