A Practical Playbook on job search for students

Job Market

By Jennifer John, Catherine Gu

May 6, 2020

Cutting spring semesters short and leaving campuses deserted, COVID-19 has upended the lives of many college students across the country. As students scatter back to homes around the world, many have received notice that their internships have been postponed or canceled — a harsh reminder of the strained job market that the pandemic has created. Companies that have already revoked internship offers range from start-ups to large corporations, including technology companies such as Yelp, Airbnb, 23andMe, Genentech, and Samsung. Among financial firms, on the other hand, there is some better news as summer internships at several well-known investment banks are expected to take place, albeit to be run virtually, as they form an important part of the recruitment process in this sector.

In this post, we try to develop a practical playbook for students who are facing the challenge of finding a summer internship this year, by sharing insights from our conversation with a Career & Affiliate Services Officer in the Department of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University, Linda Esquivel.

1. Take advantage of COVID-19 specific resources

As it became apparent that COVID-19 would disrupt summer plans, the first stop for any students should be their university’s career page- look for any new resources that have been made available in relation to the impact of the current pandemic. Many start-up providers that offer young professional career services are also quickly adapting to changes. For example, Riva was originally developed to assist new professionals for compensation negotiation through their AI-powered negotiating template. It is now offering an extra template for non-compensation negotiation, as well as a template for severance packages for those who have been laid off. Another start-up Trybe.ai offers support to individual professionals and companies adapting to working remotely. The COO of Trybe.ai and Stanford alum, Thomas Igeme, recently led a virtual workshop on navigating the transformed job market virtually, providing tips and tools to students.

2. Tap your network

Noting the “empathy and kindness” that COVID has sparked toward those in need, Linda says students should feel more encouraged in taking initiative and reaching out to those in their network to enquire about internship opportunities. To make your search more efficient, we offer a few tips that might be helpful: 

First, since everything is changing so rapidly under COVID19, an opening that has been more than two-week-old under the current environment might indicate that the company is not hiring for that position anymore. Try to look for fresh positions that have been posted within the last week – ideally within the last 24 hours. Also, try to narrow down your searches to six to ten internship positions if possible to apply.

Second, connect to the right people and the right network. While students may be more accustomed to responding to formal internship position postings, professionals such as faculty and university alumni often have industry contacts that can be critical in helping students connect to the right summer internship opportunities. In addition, check-in with your career advisor to see if they can provide an introduction to professionals that you may have not considered previously.

Lastly, when applying to formal internship positions, students should research the company’s network to see if they’re connected to anyone within the organization. That particular contact might be willing to put in a recommendation for the student and might also provide useful context to the position and the company that the student is applying to. Students can consider different networks such as an alumni group, faculty, LinkedIn, even Github that in normal circumstances may not be the first venue to look for opportunities, but don’t underestimate the power of open-source community. 

3. Something is better than nothing

As a result of changes in the job market, it might not be possible for students to engage in the same type or quality of work that they originally anticipated. However, Linda emphasizes that it is still critical to find ways of continuing to grow as a professional despite limited opportunities. In particular, start-ups may be more willing to accept interns if they are used to a remote model of collaboration and if they are open to lower compensation or unpaid positions. While students should not be encouraged to pursue unpaid positions normally, for this summer, students should weigh the option between experience and compensation more carefully if they are forced to choose only one. However, this is totally up to the students’ circumstances, including their financial situation. If circumstance permits, even an unpaid position could still allow a student to learn and develop valuable skillsets that could pave the way for them to secure a more stable position later on.

4. Be aware of industry trend

Lastly, it is no denying that under the current pandemic, we are going through a very trying time. It is important to keep yourself aware of the macro environment and industry trends up-to-date. By listening to recent interviews, podcasts, or webinars with industry leaders, it helps you to understand what is on the top of their mind and therefore be flexible and prepared as you continue through the job search.

Pandemic Pulse thanks Linda Esquivel for her contributions to the content of this post.