Internships and COVID-19: An Opportunity for Growth
By Nate Garlick
Internships. They can be a source of anxiety, but also a source of joy and growth. They can add a lot to your resume and personal experience. Naturally, they aren’t always easy to obtain. Internships are incredibly competitive and you never know who you’re going up against to land that one, single position. This past summer internship season was even more complicated due to COVID-19. Internships were cancelled left, right, and center due to many organizations believing that a remote internship program was not possible for them, that they no longer had the capacity to support and utilize interns, or even going as far as not knowing how their organization could even function in this new work format. I can certainly understand that an internship in a virtual environment would not offer the same as it would in a physical environment, seeing as a big component to the physical environment is the office culture, interacting with your peers, attending happy hours and networking events, or just general chats by the copying machine. However, there is still work that needs to be done, and skills that need to be learned, that can still be obtained even at a distance.
That was definitely the case for myself this summer, unfortunately. All of the top internships I applied for, at Walt Disney Studios, National Geographic, 21st Century Fox, NBCUniversal, NFL, among others, cancelled their internships, for a multitude of reasons, which prevented me from having that experience and opportunity I was seeking. Who is to say I would have actually gotten one of those internships had the world been in a better place, but I can keep telling myself that it was as a result of COVID-19 that I didn’t get an internship at my top choices, instead of the fact that I might have been under qualified.
Despite having all of those internships cancelled, I was lucky in the sense that two of my friends had an opening for an internship at their respective workplaces, so I managed to scoop one up when things were starting to look rather bleak. Were they related to what I’m interested in and what I was focusing on? Yes, they were in the field of communication. Were they in the industry I was looking to go into? No, they were in a completely different industry, but at that point, I was more than happy to accept one of the internships as the skills I was going to learn there could easily be transferred into the industry I’m hoping to go into, as it ultimately comes down to experience you gain, and how you decide to use it.
I ended up being a communications and outreach intern at a gutter cleaning company in Cincinnati, OH, which actually proved to be a great experience. It was fascinating to work for and learn about an industry that can’t operate from home during a pandemic, how they approached that difficult situation and steps they were taking to be safe, but also how to stay in business. Generally, working in a customer service based environment, you can usually anticipate the type of communication you will be receiving and offering, but it was a completely different ballpark working in such an environment in the middle of a pandemic. You had to be willing to adapt, to think on the fly, while also having a lot more background context on how to handle such a situation.
Coming out of this internship, I learned a lot more than I originally anticipated or expected when going to intern for a construction-based company despite it not being the entertainment industry that I was hoping for, but I certainly don’t regret it. I didn’t just learn about communication and outreach, but I also learned more about myself and was able to use this time to grow in how I react and adapt to difficult times. One of the most important lessons I learned is to be open to change, even if it doesn’t necessarily fit what you picture in your head.