It’s not news that COVID-19 has upended the world. In the prior months, there have been many unfortunate consequences for students on the career front — job losses, cancellations of internships and increased competition by more people for fewer spots on the job and internship market. However, as the world slowly bounces back and with a bit of creativity, students can still participate in a variety of experiences to build relevant skills for the future.
Certificates, Minors and UT-Sponsored
If you are struggling to find experience, this may be a time to focus more on your academic or university pursuits. There are many minors and certificates that can supplement the knowledge and skills you are already gaining and allow you to explore other fields that might interest you.
In addition, UT has many offices and programs, such as the Sanger Learning Center, the Leadership and Ethics Institute, the Multicultural Engagement Center and The LaunchPad, that can offer you opportunities to get involved. These programs and offices provide skills in mentoring, tutoring, leadership and entrepreneurship, all without having to look outside the university.
Free with your tuition, this on-demand library is an excellent resource and available to you. Access the LinkedIn Learning collection of informal and self-paced courses and find videos on project management, Python, photography and much more. These courses can help you build additional skills to supplement your academic education, and these courses and certificates can be added to your LinkedIn profile. These courses have also been shown to grab the attention of recruiters using LinkedIn.
Student organizations look different due to the pandemic, and many have pivoted to provide an excellent virtual way to connect with other students. Join professional organizations to explore different industries and network with current professionals and like-minded students. Social, cultural, political and student governance-related organizations provide opportunities to get involved in committees to develop the leadership, planning and communication skills that employers seek. Explore all the student organizations that UT has to offer.
Micro-Internships, Personal Projects and Research
Micro-internships are a new way to gain experience without committing to a full, long-term internship. These are brief, project-based experiences that can last for several weeks and are typically hosted by an intermediary match service, such as Parker Dewey. But not every industry may have an internship or micro-internship attached to it. Try pursuing your own personal projects, such as creating your own scripts or films, taking on coding challenges or engineering projects, or creating a small business.
You might also consider getting involved in research at UT to develop skills in the sciences or liberal arts, and every department is conducting research. Find ongoing projects through the Eureka searchable database.
Leveraging Current Part-Time Work
If you are working in a service industry or part-time job, you are gaining customer service, conflict management, organizational and other skills. If you are looking to gain skills that are more in line with your career goals, talk with your supervisors about creating a mini-internship. Look into shadowing managers, managing the social media account or helping with finances or accounting. Seeking out additional responsibilities at your current job can help you build new experiences without having to search for a new position.
You can also use this time to build up a network of professionals who can serve as mentors during this time. Informational interviews can be helpful in learning more about an industry or job role and in getting advice on your career. Use the HookedIn network to find UT alumni who are interested in sharing their wisdom and providing leads on future experiences.
Remember to give yourself extra care while searching for experiences. Reducing stress is imperative to helping you navigate a more cautious internship and job market. Practicing mindfulness and breathing, staying flexible, keeping organized, setting small goals and tasks, and seeking out support from family, friends or career service professionals can reduce anxiety. You are doing the best you can, and this is a collective setback for the world; it too will pass. In the meantime, gaining experience will provide you a meaningful way to speak to employers on how you spent your time during the pandemic.
To discuss your specific questions or concerns or to navigate career anxieties, visit the Texas Career Engagement website or contact your school or college career services office for industry-specific advice.