For weeks, senior sociology major Hannah Fetherston thought she had secured an internship researching race and ethnicity this past summer. In her application, she was asked to take timed and graded examinations to determine her eligibility in early May. And by the fourth week of the process, she was feeling great.
“I talked to them and they said they wanted me to talk with the group on Friday – which is usually the last step where you meet everyone and start working there,” Fetherston said. “Friday came and I reached out to her and she said, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry. The whole program’s been canceled and we don’t have an internship available anymore.’”
Her story is not an anomaly. As a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, popular internships among college students and recent graduates are down 83%, according to Julia Pollak, a labor economist on ZipRecruiter.
“I felt cheated because I spent so much time applying (even though) I could have been looking at other places,” Fetherston said. “I was so disheartened after I went through that whole experience. They said they would call if something opens up, but of course, I haven’t heard from them in months.”
Class of 2020 alumnus Simone Guillory earned a degree in communication in the spring, but was robbed of the opportunity to walk across the commencement stage in addition to having a summer internship. During her last semester at Chapman, Guillory had secured an internship at the Orange County Register in their marketing department. Yet in a matter of days, their internship program changed from remote to canceled.
“It showed me their true colors because of how quickly they kicked all the interns to the curb,” Guillory said. “All the interns were from Chapman so we were all dealing with the same thing: how are we going to get our credits?”
Due to its importance, Chapman was ultimately able to ensure that the students interning secured that class credit despite the lockdown. However, students hoping to enter the workforce don’t have that option to fall back on. Guillory’s plan for her future was interrupted by not only the pandemic, but the job market recession that has followed. Pollak reported that entry-level job postings popular among new college graduates dropped by 73% after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s been pretty difficult looking for jobs. Some people might say it’s easier because things are virtual, but it’s more difficult because businesses now have the ability to pick from everyone across the country,” Guillory said. “It’s made the process a lot harder because they have such a big applicant pool and we’re all using the same sources.”
Both Guillory and Fetherston preferred face-to-face communication when it came to job interviews; they agreed that the virtual aspect of the hiring process made interviews feel less intimate.
“I prefer in-person (interviews) because I’m more in the zone,” Fetherston said. “When I’m doing professional interviews in my childhood bedroom, it still feels weird. I’m not in the right mindset.”
Following her graduation, Guillory’s entrepreneurial spirit led her to start not one but two businesses since the pandemic began. In June, she created Bliss Babe Co., a consulting firm where clients can hire Guillory to create social media kits, branding and visuals for their companies. Guillory’s second endeavor was creating her own nail technician company, Bliss Handz.
“Bliss is a word meaning free and peaceful and stress-free. I want to help other people find that,” Guillory said. “With everything that’s going on with Black Lives Matter, I’ve been trying to reach out to black-owned businesses and … offer my services.”
Guillory is hoping life for her will return to normal by the wintertime. Despite the pandemic, there’s still hope – a good deal of companies are still hiring.
“I would hope that things would go back to normal by December because I’m turning 22 and I want to be able to enjoy all my success,” Guillory said. “If not, I have to find a way to adjust to the normal we’re in now.”