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A San Diego college student’s struggle to get an internship in the pandemic and suggestions from college advisors

College students are still seeing the ripple effects when it comes to landing internships in the pandemic, as many companies have adjusted their intern programs.

SAN DIEGO — It's not that getting an internship was super easy pre-pandemic, but the landscape is different, now. Everyone applies online for an opportunity that may still be online, in person or a mix, and that's if the student applicant gets a response at all.

"If something comes up they say they will reach out to you, but I'm not so sure when they will actually reach out to me,” says Roxanne Victoria, a third year student at UC San Diego.

Victoria has been waiting since classes started back on campus in September to get a response from the 10 internships she applied for including big names like Google, TikTok and Facebook.

Victoria is an applied math major seeking an internship in data science or data analytics, but she feels the pandemic put her at a disadvantage for when an application asks her for experience or volunteer work she doesn't have.

"I just feel like they are expecting a lot more than what we have had the opportunity to receive,” Victoria said.

Victoria has been trying to spruce up her resume and cover letter in the meantime.

"I've been going to the career center once a week to fix my résumé just so that I can perfect it as much as possible and give me the best chances,” Victoria said.

Inside UC San Diego's Career Center, Executive Director of Career & Professional Development Hassan Akmal says his office has seen an uptick in students needing internship help.

"I can tell you when the pandemic first happened, the whole recruiting cycle was disrupted. Many internships were completely canceled, and so we had tons of students, who were just right at the brink of graduation or had just graduated, and they were out of luck,” said Akmal, who was a featured TEDx speaker.

College advisors faced a new challenge in how to prep students for interviews that weren't in person.

"We're teaching students to look into a camera in the eye instead of the zoom window, so it is a different kind of approach,” Akmal said.

The career center at the University of San Diego also saw a rise in students needing help.

"I have a team of 20, and everybody was just all hands-on deck reaching out to student groups,” said Robin Darmon, University of San Diego Senior Director of the career development center.

Darmon says 92% of USD students from the class of 2020 got placed in internships or research or volunteer experience and 88.6% had jobs or grad school plans when they graduated.

"We engage with them from the get-go so as soon as they hit campus as freshmen, we have a strategy for every single year that they are here,” said Darmon, who has been at USD for eight years but in higher education her entire career.

With more internships offered online due to the pandemic, some students have been able to take on multiple internships at the same time, but it all depends on the industry.

"There are certain industries that are having a harder time catching back up. Those include sports, events and those like hospitality. Those were obviously hit a little harder,” Darmon said.

Multinational aerospace and defense technology company Northrop Grumman is always in need of interns in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

"Right now we are in recruitment mode, and there are still opportunities for summer 2022,” said Alfredo Ramirez, Northrop Grumman Vice President of engineering in San Diego.

Ramirez says 71% of Northrop Grumman’s interns become full-time employees.

"We paired up very successfully our interns, we had about 100 interns for Northrop Grumman expanding in STEM-type careers,” Ramirez said.

Interns are hands on in mechanical, electrical and cyber security jobs. Ramirez says there has been some hybrid options for the internships, “but a lot of the work we do here has to be on site."

The San Diego Chamber of Commerce is seeking several interns for its Marketing, International Business Affairs and Public Policy departments.

"We are looking to take on our intern starting in January and our applications are going to close on December 30,” said Summer Bales, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce policy coordinator.

Bales just graduated with her Master's degree from UC San Diego in June and landed a job at the Chamber of commerce, where she interned during the height of the pandemic.

"I definitely get it, that was my experience with you struggling in the middle of a pandemic to make connections and just get out there, so something that I would recommend is when you are applying to internships if you can find someone who you can reach out to directly, I have already had students do that with me and it really stands out for the ones who go beyond just applying and ask for an informational interview about the opportunity,” Bales said.

College advisors suggest connecting with alumni for help, sharpen your social media presence, and even create your own internship.

While waiting to hear back from an internship program, Roxanne Victoria became a math tutor for 13 students. She teaches first graders multiplication and college students calculus all via Zoom in her own business set-up that has been word of mouth.

"Since it was hard to find a job or go out, I was like okay, I can help students since they are home just like me, and I get to create my own curriculum and help in that way,” Victoria said.

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