Vanderbilt students adapt to online summer

With many in-person internships cancelled and summer courses moved online, Vanderbilt students look elsewhere for summer opportunities.

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Emery Little

The Career Center advises students to use this summer to gain experience that sets them apart from job competition.

Grace Lee, Staff Writer

For Vanderbilt students, summer internships are more difficult to find this year as many companies freeze hiring and cancel their internship programs. Some students have instead found online internships and other ways to spend their summer breaks. 

Rising junior Brooke Dennison said she had planned to perform in Harrogate, England this summer as a cast member for a show. The show was to run at the annual International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival, which puts on several professional and 12 amateur productions with up to 2,000 performers from all over the world, in addition to participating in a Maymester abroad and two programs in Scandinavia. 

All of her planned activities were cancelled by early April, according to Dennison. 

“Now I have no idea what I’m doing this summer, and a lot of great performers are out of work,” she said. 

Though the Festival is slated to run the planned 2020 shows in 2021, the fact that it does not receive public funding and the current state of the global economy concern Dennison.

”If they can’t come up with enough funding even [the 2021 festival] may not happen,” Dennison said. 

Shelly McCallion, also a rising junior, said she found similar difficulty with her summer plans. Starting her internship hunt in December, McCallion said she had found some companies she liked by the time Vanderbilt students were sent home for the semester

All of the programs she was interested in were cancelled, so instead of an internship, McCallion said she decided to take a Maymester course and summer courses when she unexpectedly found an opportunity.

“For one of my HOD classes, I needed to interview a female entrepreneur, and I ended up contacting my employer from last year,” McCallion said. 

Her former employer asked about her summer plans and when McCallion explained her situation, her former employer extended a new opportunity. McCallion has now accepted a summer position at the company, she said. 

“I think that a lot of people had a bunch of different types of plans — some people were going abroad, some people had internships in places they were excited about. I had a friend who had something lined up in DC she was really excited about,” McCallion said. “But ultimately, a lot of those plans I think didn’t work out due to the virus and taking the safety precautions necessary.”

Alex Rizzutto, a career coach at the Vanderbilt Career Center, emphasized that what to do this summer is not a one-size-fits-all situation. He encourages students to meet virtually with a Vanderbilt career coach specific to their area of interest so they can get the best guidance for their individual needs.

Even if all in-person internships were to get canceled, by pursuing [an] internship you are still meeting with professional contacts and demonstrating the value that you can provide to their company,” Rizzutto said in an April 14 email to The Hustler. “This is great from a networking standpoint but is also worthwhile in the case that they transition their planned in-person internship to something remote.”

Rizzutto suggests that students consider looking for remote internships or micro-internships, which are short-term, often project-based experiences. 

If you were having a coaching appointment with me, I would strongly suggest an alternate summer experience like what I have been calling an ‘Informational Interview Circuit,’” Rizzutto said. 

Rizzutto suggests trying to hold 1-3 interviews per week with alumni and professionals who work in positions of interest and added that this could be a good project to describe during future interviews. 

“I recommend asking questions like, ‘What does your job look like hour by hour?’, so you may determine how an individual in this field spends their day and then ask yourself, ‘Is that how I would like to spend my day?” Rizzutto said. “Their real value comes from the networking completed. Informational interviews are a great method for making contacts at companies of interest.” 

To help establish a connection and to gain more useful information, Rizzutto also said that students should ask interviewees how they can make themselves more competitive candidates when applying to future full-time jobs and internships.