Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 26, 2020

Life Design Lab webinar addresses cancelled summer internships

By ELIZABETH RAPHAEL | April 29, 2020

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The Life Design Lab hosted an event to help rising seniors rethink theirsummer internships.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has disrupted the summer plans of many rising seniors, who typically take this summer to gain valuable professional experience before entering the job market full time. While this means a shift to remote work for some, it may result in the cancellation of internships altogether for others. Last Friday the Life Design Lab (LDL) held a webinar for juniors who are reshuffling plans and finding new ways to stay productive this summer.

Junior Class President Isaac Lucas partnered with Hope Burke, assistant director of Life Design: Student Leadership and Involvement at LDL, to host the event. 

The Junior Class Council was originally slated to partner with LDL for an alumni panel workshop that would have taken place on March 10, which was the day that classes were moved online. Lucas and his fellow Junior Council members decided to try to reshape the event in a way that would reflect the changing circumstances.

“We got emails about [internship cancellations] and a lot of my friends were talking about it. So, this seemed to be something everyone is going through,” Lucas said in an interview with The News-Letter

Hopkins recently cancelled its yearly Community Impact Internships Program (CIIP) for undergraduates. Junior Nicola Sumi Kim, a member of the 2020 CIIP cohort, told The News-Letter about how this change has impacted her. 

“About a couple weeks ago we found out that [CIIP] wouldn’t be taking place, not even remotely. Because it’s all about community and working together, building a cohort and going out into Baltimore, it is not compatible with COVID-19,” Kim said.

Junior Caitlin Ohnmacht’s consulting internship at Mercer was cancelled entirely. In an interview with The News-Letter, Ohnmacht discussed the month-long virtual learning Mercer is offering in lieu of the position. The online training aims to help would-be interns better understand the skills required for a consulting position. 

“What I’m actually going to be doing with online learning will be very different. My in-person experience would’ve been a more hands-on exposure to how things work on a daily basis at Mercer,” Ohnmacht said.

When her position was canceled on April 13, she created a post on LinkedIn explaining her situation and asking for advice or leads in her search for an alternate position. 

“I’ve also been applying to random things on LinkedIn and Handshake. I kind of feel like I would take whatever I can get right now,” Ohnmacht said.

Junior Olivia Brown, a junior studying International Studies and Computer Science, secured an internship in Accenture’s technology consulting branch back in November. In an interview with The News-Letter, Brown highlighted that the tech industry is uniquely impacted by a switch to remote employment. 

“I think since I am a CS major — and those are the skills I’m using — the actual day-to-day probably won’t be that different,” she said. 

However, Brown noted that despite hands-on coding experience, she and other tech-field interns will not experience the advantage of in-person network building. 

“I remember my last internship. It was great to speak with adults in the field and learning in that aspect, and I know that they were planning on having all of the interns meet up in Chicago to get to know the other interns,” Brown said. “[This summer] there just won’t be as much of a sense of camaraderie and I won’t get to feel as much like a part of a team.” 

According to Brown, COVID-19 will also impact rising seniors’ careers in the long term. She explained that once Class of 2021 graduates, there’s a chance that the economy will still be negatively impacted by the pandemic — resulting in lower compensation.

“The economy is not doing great now and it probably won’t be great when we graduate,“ Brown said. “We see from people who graduated in 2008 that they’re still making less than their counterparts who graduated when the economy was doing well last year.”

The LDL webinar addressed the uncertain terrain that the class of 2021 is facing this summer.

“Students want to know what companies are hiring, where [they] can look — that can be an issue when so many companies don’t even know what they’re doing right now,” Lucas said. “The way [LDL] went about it with general tips and mindsets was outside the box and helpful.” 

Burke wanted to communicate this type of “outside the box” thinking for upperclassmen who are missing out on what may seem to be a necessary professional experience. 

“It is easy to get caught up in the Hopkins bubble and race to have the best resume, and I wanted students to really stop to think about what outcomes they envision for their summer, what obstacles they may have to contend with, and to feel empowered to start designing with those in mind,” Burke wrote in an email to The News-Letter

The LDL educator noted that the COVID-19 crisis will change how rising seniors need to view their upcoming summer. 

“If we can shift our perspective from ‘having an internship is the only meaningful summer experience’ to ‘I can design my way forward,’ we now have permission to think creatively about what an independent study might look like and how that experience can enhance our value when we're looking for a job later down the line,” Burke wrote. “The COVID-19 pandemic has only further solidified the need for all of us to take a creative approach to meeting our personal and professional needs and goals.” 

If you would like to get in touch with an LDL educator to discuss changed plans or develop a strategy for the summer, students can find their Life Design Educator's contact information and office hours here.

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