Due to COVID-19, many employers had to cancel plans to host summer interns. This is yet another thing that has been impacted due to the pandemic. I’ve read articles that discuss the valuable experience university students get from on-the-job experience.
A summer internship can offer students experience for a resume, a chance to put their learned knowledge into action and the opportunity to learn from people in the sector they are hoping to enter.
I feel for interns who lost the opportunity this summer. We’ve all needed to pivot during the past few months and had to learn to adapt to the world around us. Some of us have enjoyed it more than others, but I don’t know a single person who hasn’t experienced change and some disappointment that came with it.
Even if there aren’t formal internships right now, there are creative, innovative ways that students can be supported and receive experience and connections that are valuable when starting a career. Often these opportunities present themselves to people who are actively seeking them.
When I was in college for journalism, many of the students were applying for internships at various media outlets in town and across Canada. A big part of being a newspaper reporter was being able to travel around the city to cover stories. At the time I didn’t have a car or a driver’s licence, and that was my excuse for not applying for an internship.
Part of the requirements to graduate was to have some examples of published writing. I was really interested in business writing, and I crafted an email to an editor of a local business paper explaining how I was a student interested in writing for the publication to gain some experience.
To my surprise, a few days later I received an email from the editor saying: “Are you sure you meant to write me? You are in Canada and I am in Puget Sound, Washington.”
It was a complete mistake that I emailed him, and I am honestly not sure how it happened. But, nevertheless I said: “Of course I meant to write you, do you have any opportunities?”
He replied that he was looking for a Canadian journalist to write a feature article on how American businesses could land procurement opportunities for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. In 2006, the topic seemed complex and out of my wheelhouse, but I agreed and got to work.
The editor said he didn’t have a budget to pay me, but he would offer me his time and guidance through the process. I took the deal.
I wasn’t very good at writing, and I must have submitted at least six drafts of the article. The editor and his team were patient with me and took the time to really help me understand the process and where I needed to improve. They were not shy about pointing out my errors and guiding me in correcting them.
When it was all over, I had a beautiful published article that spanned several pages, that I was extremely proud of. I interviewed people organizing the Olympics in Vancouver and learned all about the bidding process. I also interviewed American companies that were awarded contracts for the Olympic Games held in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The biggest thing that I received from the experience was confidence, and I am grateful to that experience and to the editor and his team who took extra time to support me.
The editor offered me a letter of recommendation and he referred to the project as an internship and said I was the best intern they had ever had. Later that year I was invited to go to Portland to a journalism conference and meet the editor and his team.
Soon after I moved to a small town in Alberta to be a full-time newspaper reporter. I am certain my “internship” and letter of reference helped me land the job.
If you are a student who was unable to experience a summer internship, I urge you to get creative and start pitching some ideas. The worst thing someone can say is “no.” I can’t count the number of times people have turned down my ideas, and that’s OK. All you need it one “yes.”
Charla Huber is the director of communications and Indigenous relations for M’akola Housing Society.