Students navigate an evolving job market and the potential of a summer unemployed


Illustration by Catherine Buchaniec

Several students have had their internships cancelled or turned remote in light of COVID-19.

Julia Moore, Reporter

Many Northwestern students spend their summers working a job, or developing their professional skills at internships. To the disappointment of many students, the coronavirus pandemic has not left these opportunities unscathed.

As students transition to remote learning, the possibility of summer programs and employment being similarly affected by COVID-19 looms. Some students have seen employment offers rescinded, while others’ opportunities have been fundamentally altered.

Communication sophomore Olivia Corderi said she secured an internship at a fashion PR firm in New York City in late March, prior to the enactment of stay-at-home orders. However, amid increasing social distancing provisions, she said she was told the program would no longer proceed as planned.

“I saw another email from (the company) that said, ‘Unfortunately,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, no,’” Corderi said.

The email explained that the offer was retracted due to coronavirus concerns, citing “major changes and shifts” happening within the company. She said she was originally excited to receive the offer because she didn’t believe they would hire a sophomore.

Corderi is one of many students whose summer plans have shifted in recent weeks. The abrupt changes in employment opportunities for the summer makes NU’s Summer Internship Grant Program even more essential for students who rely on summer income.

SIGP is the primary source of funding from the University for undergraduate students’ unpaid summer experiences. Last summer, the program offered $3,000 in funding each to 440 students pursuing summer opportunities that did not pay interns.

The program has updated its policy for the upcoming summer to provide funding for internships that may transition to remote positions, which were previously not eligible for a SIGP grant, according to the program’s website. The update further stated that NCA understands the changing climate for in-person employment may impact student opportunities and that many students rely on funding from the program, so SIGP plans to work with recipients to understand the complexities presented by the pandemic.

Weinberg freshman Victor Pan said at the time he applied for the SIGP grant, he did not yet have a summer internship secured. He said he has since received two offers, one of which has been confirmed to be held remotely.

“Hopefully, I’ll get the SIGP grant,” Pan said. “If I get it, I’ll feel more confident in accepting an offer.”

Both of Pan’s offers are unpaid and located in Chicago, which would potentially leave the Cleveland native in need of funding from SIGP for living expenses. He said SIGP’s website made it clear that they’re aware of many internships being held remotely, and that NCA has made clear they’re willing to support students whose circumstances have changed in that regard.

For SESP senior Sam Milstein, the drastic change brought on by the pandemic has left her without closure to her college experience. She said she plans to start a position at the Kraft Heinz Company in July, a job she’s had since she completed an internship with the company last summer.

“In my perspective, I can’t really talk,” Milstein said. “But I feel like it’s almost less pressure to follow the norm. Now it’s like, ‘It’s not your fault if you don’t have a job.’”

For many graduating seniors, this “moment you prepare for your whole life,” Milstein said, has been completely turned on its head. Seniors are entering into a job market already mired in decade-high unemployment rates and will miss out on experiencing a proper commencement ceremony.

Milstein said the transition into the workforce comes without closure and feels “defeating.” She said seniors’ years of hard work seem like they will go unrecognized. She added that her position is not at immediate risk of furlough and the company has remained in close contact with the incoming employees about what the summer will look like.

“Everything’s up in the air,” Milstein said. “I have no idea. But I know I’m lucky I have a job.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @juliasemoore

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