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  • Handling Student Interns During the Coronavirus Pandemic

    March 23, 2020 | By NACE Staff

    Best Practices
    A student worker checks in remotely with his supervisor.

    TAGS: best practices, operations, nace insights, coronavirus

    Spotlight for Career Services Professionals

    During these challenging times, it is important for career services offices to ensure their student interns are included in coronavirus response planning, advises William Jones, senior director of career exploration and success at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.

    “These are the students who work in your own office, and many of them rely on these wages to cover their living expenses and to pay the rent,” Jones says.

    “It's essential to think about the students who are interning with employers as part of your various internship programs, but don't forget about the ones who help make your own office run smoothly.”

    The COVID-19 response plan at the Rutgers Office of Career Exploration and Success includes having its student supervisors develop a remote project list for their interns.

    “For example, we have a help desk of students who assist their peers troubleshoot issues with virtual career tools and who answer emails” Jones says. “It is considered an essential role during this time.”

    However, some positions within the office—for example, those greeting visitors and answering phones at the front desks—may not translate easily to a remote work environment.

    “To ensure equity across the board, for any student who might be in a role that does not lend itself to working remotely, staff members developed two projects that any intern can do,” Jones explains.

    “One is employer engagement-related and includes doing research on employers within certain career cluster communities. The other project is web-related and involves ensuring that that our online major handouts are accurate. Through these projects, all of our students have the opportunity to work remotely and continue to earn pay.”

    In addition to accounting for the needs of its student interns during the coronavirus pandemic, the Rutgers career office has made other adjustments, such as moving resources online.

    “We have career meetups, which are group advising sessions for each of our career cluster communities,” Jones notes.

    “These typically take place in various locations across campus. We moved our career meetups to the virtual space so our students will still have the opportunity to participate in group advising sessions.”

    The office has also prioritized those clients who are in the most immediate need in the current job market and college recruiting cycle.

    "With the potential impact that this [situation] might have on the job market and also because we had to cancel some of our recruiting programs, we are particularly concerned about our graduating seniors, graduate students, and recent alumni during this time," Jones points out.

    “We have restricted new virtual one-on-one career advising appointments to members of these groups. However, we are connecting with all students in our group advising sessions, and we set up an email address that we ask students to use for quick questions that are triaged by our student tech help desk.”

    Rutgers is also preparing to launch virtual drop-in sessions for all students and has also partnered with employers like Prudential to host virtual webinars on how to “Rock Your Digital Interview.”

    Jones acknowledges that we all continue to learn and adjust during this pandemic. Communication, he adds, should address this uncertainty and an understanding of the limitations it has placed on operations.

    “It is important for us as leaders to let our staff know what we do and what we do not know,” Jones says.

    His first email to the department concluded with, “I recognize that this email may not answer all of your questions. We acknowledge that things may not run as smoothly, ‘mistakes’ might be made, and our shared goal of excellence may not be attainable. That's OK. Honestly, that's more than OK. I hope that as a team, we will continue to try our best to do the best that we can.”

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