Julia Nagel / Sun Staff Photographer

Students work in the Physical Sciences Building on the first day of classes on Feb. 8. The pandemic has disrupted internship opportunities for students across the country.

February 15, 2021

Students Search for Internships in a Closed-Off Job Market

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Students have struggled to find internships, from research to finance positions, throughout the pandemic, disrupting opportunities for Cornellians and students across the country. 

“Nationwide, the class of 2020 graduated into a very difficult economy, and the pandemic is changing the employment outlook for recent and prospective college graduates,” said Greg Foster, interim executive director and career development manager.   

Even if students managed to land internships, they faced constant uncertainty about whether or not they could attend those internships in-person or at all. Some students were contacted by hiring managers who indicated interest, but ultimately did not receive a job offer.  

Emlen Brown ’22 managed to find an internship before the initial peak of the pandemic in March. However, he did not know what was happening with the co-op until the middle of the summer, when he found out that the internship would be conducted remotely.  

“It was the July call where the team told me that I was definitely going to be home for a month,” Brown said. “It turned out that it was going to be the entire semester.” 

Many students said that remote work was disappointing, as they were unable to get the networking opportunities that might have occurred if they were present in the workplace.

However, Brown recalled that his employers tried to create a normal workplace environment by hosting Zoom social calls that simulated going out to a restaurant after a hard day of work. 

“Every Thursday evening, the team [would] get on Zoom with no more formalities,” Brown said.  

In addition to the disappointment of internship cancellations, students found themselves without research positions as professors shut down labs. 

John Ceske ’23 mentioned how he applied to many more research opportunities for next summer because he is unsure what will end up getting canceled. 

“It became a lot more about quantity instead of quality,” Ceske said. 

However, there are silver linings. 

“Even in this challenging time, many opportunities do exist,” Foster said. He pointed out that an average of 1,250 new jobs and internships were posted on Handshake each month, from April through November of last year. According to Foster, over 13,000 jobs and internships are currently listed, with more to come.

Cornell Career Services has created resources to help students find internships during the pandemic. Dr. Jessamyn Perlus, interim senior associate director and career exploration unit manager, suggested scheduling a Zoom or phone appointment with a career advisor.

However, despite these realities, some students said they believe the pandemic did not affect their job search.  

“The internship process is pretty much online anyways, and it feels a lot more low-key than going in-person,” Madeleine Chang ’22 said. “It makes it a lot more convenient if students are not tied to the employer’s schedule or whenever they come to campus.”